SCRANTON — Attorneys representing juveniles in a class-action civil suit against two former Luzerne County judges and others involved in the “kids for cash” scheme say lawyers for some of the defendants should suffer sanctions and have to pay their legal fees because of their bad behavior.
Attorneys Sol H. Weiss, Daniel Segal, William R. Caroselli and Marsha L. Levick, representing juveniles they say were harmed in the scheme, filed in federal court on Monday a brief in support of their motion for sanctions and legal fees against the Pittsburgh law firm of Brucker, Schneider & Porter — counsel for Pa. Child Care, Western Pa. Child Care and Mid-Atlantic Youth Services.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys also ask for sanctions and fees against attorneys Bernard M. Schneider and William Brucker individually.
The juveniles sued the juvenile detention centers and their service provider along with former judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, former detention center co-owner Robert Powell, and detention center developer Robert Mericle, claiming they conspired to force the county to lease the detention centers and then unjustly keep them filled with juveniles.
The four individual defendants have either pleaded guilty or were found guilty of various crimes in separate criminal cases, and Mericle reached a $17.75 million settlement in the civil case in December 2011.
The plaintiff attorneys claim Brucker and Schneider have so “unreasonably and vexatiously … multiplied the proceedings” that they are liable for “the excess costs, expenses and attorneys’ fees reasonably incurred because of their conduct.”
The plaintiffs’ attorneys claim the defendants’ attorneys “far exceeded any reasonable boundary of zealous advocacy” and “conducted themselves as if they were somehow immune to this Court’s orders.” They claim the defendants’ attorneys did so in two ways:
First, they took the position that discovery related to the merits of the juvenile plaintiffs’ adjudications and their family, social, education, psychological and court histories is relevant to the class certification and liability portions of the case. However, that position was rejected by the court twice, plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote.
Nevertheless, following these denials, Schneider and Brucker “vexatiously multiplied the proceedings” – consuming the time of both plaintiffs’ counsel and the court – “by continuing at every turn to raise and aggressively press these already-decided issues both in this Court and in the Court of Appeals,” according to the brief.
Plaintiffs’ counsel also noted the defendants’ counsel on Feb. 4 emailed requests to depose 13 plaintiffs in February. Plaintiffs’ counsel worked “many hours, not only scheduling depositions, but also on preparing the witnesses and counsel for the depositions.”
On Feb. 11, defendants’ counsel served subpoenas to the facilities where the juveniles were incarcerated or treated. After the plaintiff attorneys objected, the defendants’ attorneys then unilaterally canceled all the depositions on Feb. 14.
“At the risk of (defendants’) counsel becoming even more out of control with their requests for prohibited discovery, sanctions must be imposed,” the plaintiff attorneys said. “Doing so will go far to protect the due and orderly administration of justice and to maintain the authority and dignity of the court.”
Second, in an effort to block the Mericle settlement, defendants’ counsel “took the patently frivolous position” that their clients, “who were not involved or legally affected in any way by the settlement” had standing to object to it.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys did not provide a dollar amount associated with the extra costs they blame on the defendants’ attorneys. If a judge grants the motion, they asked to be given 10 days to provide that information.