Sunday, March 22, 2009

Incestuous criminal cauldron

That is probably a better name than Juvie Brothers or Cash for Kids to describe what has been going on in Luzerne County for years. Everybody who is anybody is connected in the courthouse, statehouse, city hall or a local school board be it by a relative, high/law school pal or just did it the old fashion way by giving a campaign contribution.

The headline comes from Judge Ann Lokuta's latest filing in her appeal to the PA Supreme Court regarding her removal from the bench because she was occasionally late for work, sometimes didn't take a shower and was rude to people. By that standard I think many of us might be out of work.

When you look at the cast of crooks that wanted to get rid of Lokuta because she contends that she was cooperating with the investigation I think that at the least she deserves a new hearing. Remember that she was not convicted of doing anything illegal and her chief accusers are admitted criminals led by Judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella, Conahan's cousin Bill Sharkey who is headed to jail for being a thief and "poor, poor pitiful me" disgraced former Prothonotary Jill Moran. One of the people that sat in judgement of her was Richard Sprague who was a lawyer for Robert Powell who was one of the people paying off the Judges. Powell is a law partner and business partner of Jill Moran. Powell, Moran, Conahan and Ciavarella are also business partners.

It doesn't begin or end with this case as we all know the only way to get a job in local government is to know somebody or pay them off with a campaign contribution. Just about every School District in the country is screaming for teachers but around here you better have a relative on the board or they won't even look at you. And we always lament why our educated young people keep moving away.


Anonymous said...

I have read the Orders and other information published by the Court of Judicial Discipline. While Judge Lokuta was not found guilty of any criminal activity per se, as one with training in Applied Ethics, I would say that her pattern of conduct rose to a level that constituted serious enough violations the Judicial Code of Conduct that meritted the Court's removal of her from office. Less than a month after the December 2008 Press Release, I happened to be at a series of hearings in Superior Court waiting for a case from another county for which I was the Appellant. The case that was argued before mine was one of Judge Lokuta's decisions. It was sloppy piece of jurisprudence and costly to boot, for no reason other than her lack of impartiality.

If you really want better judges, what we the electorate must do collectively is ensure that lawyers who are disciplined for misconduct or ethical violations, have their names and the record of their reprimands published and the hearing should be open to the public. In this way, the electorate has a chance to check out the backgrounds of judicial candidates before pulling the lever in the voting booth.

Not even judges are given the kind of shielding from public scutiny as are lawyers. No other profession in this state gets such "privileged treatment." A slap on the wrist behind closed doors for gross violations is unacceptable! It's the Ole' Boy Network and the Plantation Politics that keep getting us less then savory and often incompetent judges.

The Supreme Court must be pressured to start enforcing the ethical standards in the case of lawyers and publishing the material for public review as it does with judges.

Luzerne County is by no means the only county with a corrupt set of judges and the "Bubba System" is alive functioning quite smoothly in Harrisburg too. A case in point: One of the Superior Court Judges on the panel that heard my case had a republican endorsed candidate for the Supreme Court. This Superior Court Judge has a sister who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committe. This same Superior Court Judge was twice beaten back by the ACLU for attempting to force the identity of a person who published an ethical problem involving her husband--who is also a lawyer. One of two lawyers against whom I shall be filing complaints was present at my appeals hearing. That lawyer has two law partners in the legislature: One sits on the Senate Law and Justice Committee and another, who is in the House of Representatives.

Until the pulic becomes outraged enough and actively demands "open books: on all the lawyers who for whom disciplinary action is taken,and opens the hearings to the public and the press, you will continue to see "business as ususal."

A grass-roots movement to remove from the Supreme Court, its powers to police and discipline the judiciary and members of Bar Associations might finally get their attention and get us a less corrupt judicial culture and judges with better characters.

Jude Rene Montarsi
Clinton County, PA

Anonymous said...

Well said. And be certain, if the lawyers don't police their own - the govenrment will gleefully fill the void.

Dana said...

Our esteemed host wrote that Judge Lokuta was "remov(ed) from the bench because she was occasionally late for work, sometimes didn't take a shower and was rude to people. By that standard I think many of us might be out of work."

Don't know 'bout you, but I always take a shower in the morning. And being "occasionally" late for work will get you fired a lot of places.

Yeah, yeah, I know: you work nights!

Anonymous said...

A follow-up to my first set of comments: Some suggestions for everyone who has concerns to consider:

We need a "citizens' watchdog organization" in this state. Ordinary citizens could easily organize to start a local "judicial and bar watch." A "Peoples Court of Public Opinion" in which ordinary citizens try the judiciary and lawyers--a panel of untrained Judge Judies! LOL

Each county should have its own chapter. It would be a voluntary organization with no paid staff, manned by ordinary citizens--not lawyers nor government appointed staff--it should have no ties to the government. It's job would be to police and report. The goal would be to collect and disseminate information for public consumption by way of a website to alert the public to any suspicious or unethical or illegal conduct by judges and lawyers.

The judicary has proven again and again that it has no real interested in policing itself or members of the bar association and disciplines unsavory lawyers in private. We should map out lawyers ties to the legislature and the judiciary and corporations doing business with government entities.

We (ordinary citizens) can do this ourselves. We don't need investigative journalists because--even the good ones who would do the work have editors who are comfortable with the "status quo." Since the judiciary "hamstrings" the Judicial Conduct Review Board and underfunds it--it has no real power to investigate--and since the Office of Disciplinary Counsel has so many byzantine rules and conducts its hearings in private--then one must ask: "Whose interests are really being served by these boards?

What I am suggesting we do is this: Start throwing "Little Boston Tea Parties" all across Pennsylvania.

Do you really want to see Bar Association members clean up their acts and the judiciary really police rogue judges and lawyers? Then the only way we can do that is by threatening them--not with term limits, for that could deprive us of good judges--but by putting a referendum on state-wide ballot initiative to take away the Supreme Court's powers to police and discipline its members. Talk about putting the fox in charge of the henhouse!

You watch how fast the Ole Boy Network cleans up its act when it realizes for the first time in 230 odd years it is faced with a real threat to its comfortable status quo--which is rendering justice dysfunctional in this state!

A citizen's watchdog organization--even if we turned it into a kangaroo court and lampooned the bastards--would at least serve to bypass the judciary and bar associations cronies on the legislative committees, sending them too, a succinct warning to clean up their own acts or face extinction in the next election cycle.

Let the glut of bad apples join the ranks of the underemployed. A few years "day labor" might humble them a bit, not to mention saving the treasury tons of money and for harrassed citizens fewer bouts of "frivolous" and/or "malicious" litigation. Anyone with a Flip Video camera can make a short documentary film and upload it to the Internet with little difficulty. Imagine giving a county-wide tour of all the homes of the local bar members! LOL The lives of the movers and shakers in Podunk, PA!"

A license to practice law is no different that a license to drive a car. It is a "privilege" which can and should be taken away when the person holding a license becomes incompetent or shows a reckless disregard for the public welfare.

There are good lawyers and good judges, but collectively as a "political and economic class" they suck! Even the good ones--especially those who keep their mouths shut and look the other way when they know their colleagues are up to no good. These are the most shameful!

If we (the ordinary citizens) fail to clean up the judiciary and get some good policing of the bar association--as history has shown us repeatedly--we can only rely on ourselves and not some "priestly caste". If we continue to do so, then will soon be chopped liver. Let the mischief begin and I'll bring the mayonaise!

Chinese courts are beginning to look "downright democratic" from over here in "Little Ole Clinton (a.k.a. as Melting Pot Mafia) County! ;)

Jude Rene' Montarsi
Clinton County

Anonymous said...

who cares? it all doesn't matter, nothing here will ever change...

Chuck the Broker said...

Being late, not showering, and being rude to people will indeed get you canned from most jobs. Welcome to the real world.

Anonymous said...

In response to the remark by an Anonymous poster, "who cares? it all doesn't matter..." It you or a loved one are abused by the judiciary and predatory or careless attorneys--if you become the victim of sloppy or crooked jurisprudence, YOU will care. It does matter to everyone. If the judiciary--which is one of the three branches of government, gets out of whack, they entire system will be out of whack. To say that "nothing will ever change" is to renige on one's responsibility as a citizen. The very least that one can do is SPEAK OUT and SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER. We vote for judges in this state.

Benjamin Frankin, in response to a question about what kind of government the Continental Congress had devised for America, he said, "A republic...if you can keep it."

We should be outraged at the state of the judiciary and privileged treatment lawyers received in disciplinary matters. They are not some "priestly caste." They are public servants and professional officers of the court that can effect our lives for good or ill in profound ways. To those who throw up their hands and say, "nothing ever changes", then you deserve the government you get--and the government we've have given ourselves this state by being apathetic, says lot about us as citizens than it does about the crookedness of the professional political class.