The former United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania was recently honored as "Government Lawyer of the Year" by the Pennsylvania Bar Association. His leadership of investigators from the FBI, IRS and other government agencies resulted in blowing the lid off of many of the criminal practices that have been normal in Luzerne County for as long as I can remember such as job selling and kickbacks for contracts. That is a set of crimes that would have not been possible to bring to light without the uncovering of the Juvie Brothers scheme of selling kids up the river. He is a career prosecutor who has been promoted to U.S. magistrate judge in Harrisburg, Pa and was succeeded in the office by Dennis Pfannenschmidt
who has continued the investigation. Mr Pfannenschmidt will be busy in 2010.
The Times-Leader named Luzerne County President Judge Chet Muroski Person of the Year. I can agree that Muroski has done many things to try to clean up this mess and restore trust in the courts but I can't get by the question of why it took so long. Talk of something being remiss in the courts has been out there for a long time. So far 3 judges have gone down with the rumor that a 4th will soon be charged. Let me ask you this, if you had a criminal or legal matter pending would you want your case heard in a Luzerne County Court?
The Newsmakers of the Year were the Juvie Brothers. Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella
got the attention of Michael Moore, the New York Times, the BBC, the CBS Evening News, ABC's 20/20 and even the TV drama "Law and Order."
Stephen Colbert complimented the Judges on their privatization efforts.
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This also made TPM's Golden Duke awards.
Best Scandal -- Local Venue
Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan not only took kick-backs for sending kids to a private juvenile prison facility where the state or local communities had to pay top dollar to house young delinquents but they sent kids to jail for the pettiest of offenses, good kids who had made minor mistakes, kids who had no business being sent to prison. A few examples make the point: as in their sentencing a 17-year-old for five months because he helped a friend shop lift a DVD from a Wal-Mart; sending a 15-year-old off for three months in their co-conspirators' juvenile camp for mocking a school official on a MySpace page; sentencing a 13-year-old weekend confinement for trespassing in a vacant building - the list is long but you get the gist. These two judges earned not less that $2.6 million running this kickback racket while ruining young lives for their own illicit gain before they were caught red-handed. For me, this local scandal pales all others nominees.