Last updated: March 25. 2013 11:30PM - 3755 Views
By TERRIE MORGAN-BESECKER



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SCRANTON — A federal judge has granted former Luzerne County judge Mark Ciavarella permission to join in a motion filed by other defendants who oppose a request to have the “kids-for-cash” lawsuit certified as a class-action lawsuit.


Ciavarella, in a handwritten letter from his prison cell in Pekin, Ill., said he believes the arguments set forth by Robert Powell, PA Child Care and its related entities are applicable to him. He asks that the court consider the arguments as if they were being presented by him.


Attorneys for Powell have argued the case should not be certified as a class-action lawsuit, which would allow it to proceed as a single lawsuit on behalf of approximately 2,000 juveniles. If class certification is denied, each of the plaintiffs would have to pursue individual complaints.


Ciavarella is serving a 28-year prison sentence for his conviction on numerous corruption charges for accepting money from real estate developer Robert Mericle, who built the juvenile centers at the heart of the scandal.


Ciavarella and former Judge Michael Conahan, who is serving 17 1/2 years in prison for his role in the scandal, remain as defendants in the lawsuit, which alleges juveniles were improperly incarcerated by Ciavarella as part of a scheme to ensure the juvenile centers, which were co-owned by Powell, had a high occupancy rate.


The lawsuit is separate from a $17.75 million settlement reached with Mericle, who was previously included as a defendant in the class action lawsuit.


Powell’s attorneys have argued, among other things, that individual circumstances and alleged harm caused to each plaintiff is too different to allow for class certification. Attorneys for the juveniles have disputed that position.


In a legal brief filed last week, the plaintiffs’ attorneys say individual assessment relates to the amount of damages that are owed each plaintiff, not whether each juvenile was injured by the defendants’ conduct. They argue each of the juveniles suffered a common injury - deprivation of their due process rights - therefore they can establish liability for the entire class.


U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo on Monday granted Ciavarella permission to join in the defense motion. The judge will review the filings and issue a ruling regarding class certification at a later date.

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