As U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner wrote in court documents this week, former Pennsylvania judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan “orchestrated” the closing of juvenile facilities in 2002 in an effort to “make way” for new detention centers, the construction of which would see them both amassing financial benefits.
In fact, the two convicted felons were previously said to have received $2.8 million over several years from a commercial builder and an attorney involved with the centers in question. As the Associated Press noted in their report on the damages decision this week, the larger story surrounding the two men ultimately came to be widely referred to as the “kids for cash” scandal.
“Plaintiffs are the tragic human casualties of a scandal of epic proportions,” Judge Conner said of the legal action hundreds of victims had taken in response to what Ciavarella and Conahan did, adding that the law is “powerless” when it comes to giving back lost time, although this awarding of damages will hopefully bring “a measure of closure.”
After the “kids for cash” plot was made public, state courts tossed out thousands of juvenile convictions.
In a statement shared Wednesday, a rep for the Juvenile Law Center—a nonprofit based in Pennsylvania—noted the lifelong ramifications of the two former judges’ “despicable plan” of robbing victims of key childhood years.
“We applaud the court for listening and finally doing justice,” the rep added.
All told, Ciavarella and Conahan have now been ordered to pay compensatory damages of more than $106 million and punitive damages of $100 million. However, it’s currently believed to be unlikely that victims will receive much of this amount.