Friday, February 27, 2009

Lady Justice

The 20 February Article is about Justice in America. And, the failings of a few of the people we entrust with this power.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here we are again I love this blog taking from your post "her blind fold symbolizes her impartiality" does that mean that even those who work in state a federal gov. should be held to the same laws and punishments as those who don't? If it does I can't see it. There are special exception made for those type of Criminals."The scales represent the careful weighing of both sides in order to reach the right decision".Does that include allowing state and gov. employees to lie under oath to acthive the results they want? Or is that an exception , they can lie in order to get there version of the truth? And how about those who make wild accusation that they have no way of proving with facts. Only that they have stated this is good enough. And that we should not question their word. Because they are held to a higher standard does not mean they are beyond lieing to get what they want.Luzerene county judges are the perfect example."he became the proverbial bad apple" what happens when their are more the one bad apple by covering up a co-workers lies and mistakes. Any by making statements that are untrue or statements that they can not prove or they no evidence of just there word. And because they are held to a higher standard we should not question them. Or so they think. "Northeast PA. has been struck with unthinkable corruption at the higest levels" it's not just in Luzerne County I am not saying that all state and gov. workers are corrupt there are alot of good ones out there I just think that there should be an independant commitee to investagate each and every county in PA. and every agency that gets a complaint should be investagted by some one out side that agency to stop the corruptio, and not by a state or gov. worker a true independent! investagation."when a prosecutor becomes unethical" when any one involved with the judical system becomes unethical IE:proof, phyical proof! it effects the judical system and places it in jeopardy, and causes the people who it is in place to protect to doubt that it can ever be set straight. When these offical are allowed to do or say anything they want and hide behind the law that says they cannot be held accountable is a tradgedy on the legal system that those people can destroy someones life because of some thing they say with no evidence and not be held accountable or lie under oath in court and not be held accountable where is the justice system when it comes to the lives of the people they destroyed by speculation and lies. It's not there to protect them just the destroyers."The justice system has suffered a serious blow" yes it has and it will continue to suffer as long as the laws are set to protect those who make them and not those who have to live with them."Many people are cynical about the justice system" and with good cause if this sort of thing can happen at the level of a judge what about all the others under that level when a person who has evidence of their abuse of power they are the ones who are pursecuted for bringing it out to draw away the guilty and proscute the innocent. For exposing their corruption one in a thousand actully do some thing about it instead of giving double talk and excusses. To explain there actions or the actions of those they work with, if a lie is a lie than no matter who speaks it its still a lie, and then why should it be treated any different from any other, why should it be excussed for one and not another, because only the one can hide behind the law that is set to protect all is granted this under the law. I is time to change this don't you agree?"Public confidence can only be restored when the offenders meet with lady justice" I agree with you 110% lets starting holding these officals accountable to the same laws and same punishments as the rest of us. Let them no longer hide behind the law and let the law show them justice. I look forward to discussing this with you in the near future.

Jason Legg said...

I had the distinct honor and privilege to serve as a law clerk for a federal district court judge in Scranton. The experience was an incredible and rewarding one.

I have also been blessed to have the opportunity to work in Susquehanna County for nearly 10 years, and my experience with the criminal justice system here has been just as rewarding.

Is this to say that mistakes are not made? No. The system is a human one -- and we all make mistakes. But there is a difference between mistakes and corruption.

In my 13 years working in different government entities, I have observed good people trying to make a difference and serve their communities. The problem is that a bad apple (or a few) undermine the integrity of the entire system, and degrades the service and sacrifice that all of the other public servants are undertaking.

If there is corruption, it cannot be allowed to stand. What we are seeing in Luzerne County is a good example of the way the sytem works -- and how it corrects itself.

While the abuse is certainly horrible, perhaps it would be better to celebrate the manner in which it was stopped, and the culprits held accountable.

Anonymous said...

recomended reading this shows the corruption this is non-fiction "THE FRANKLIN SCANDAL" Nick Bryant

Editor said...

For more information on the book mentioned:

http://franklinscandal.com/

Mark M. said...

Mr. Legg:

Do you believe privately-run prisons/jails/juvenile detention centers contribute to the risk of corruption? That is, if this facility had been a public institution, the lure of easy $ via judicial kickbacks for child placements would (apparently) not have existed.

I ask this question not knowing if the detention facilities in the great county of Susquehanna are private or public.

Anonymous said...

Response to Mark I doubt very much it was the private owned detention centers and their owners who proposed the first question, as to how can we get more money. Think about it, how many people do you know would walk up to a Judge and ask him/her to take a bribe, no I believe that it was the Judges who thought up this scheem,I have no way to verfiy this, it is just my opinion. However every thing I have heard about those upstanding citizens in Luzerne Co., who jailed innocent children with no due process, shows that they are not going to jail for that crime; but for tax evasion, thats right tax evasion not the crime that they should have been put away for. And what jail do you think they are going to? Certianly will not be state may be a white collar one, with tv in cells and a couch or recliner in their cell, where they will never see genral population. So I believe that it is not the private run or owned facilites that are the ones who initiate the corruption, while they are just as guilty and should be jailed as well, it was the corruption in men of power that made this into what it is. Unlimited power over a person or persons creates corruption and corruption allows those who weald it to have unlimited power even if it is only for a short time. "POWER CORRUPTS AND CORRUPTION IS POWER," think about it.

Jason Legg said...

Mark,

Susquehanna County does not have any juvenile detention centers. Whenever we place or detain a juvenile, the placement occurs outside the county. In past years, the county has discussed building and running such a facility with the thought that it would eventually pay for itself because of the extraordinary costs associated with juvenile detention.

Juvenile detention centers (or other juvenile treatment facilities) are very expensive. For instance, we just released a juvenile sex offender from a special facility after 6 years of treatment and rehabilitation. I believe the cost was around $300 per day for that one juvenile, i.e., over $100,000 per year for one child. Because that juvenile was in a special facility for sex offenders, the costs were higher than other detention centers. But this highlights the costs that can be associated with detaining a juvenile.

For this reason, detention is normally the last resort in a juvenile proceeding. In order to support a juvenile detention, all other less restrictive means of rehabilitation must have failed, i.e., probation, home confinement, electronic monitoring and similar programs. In other words, unless the juvenile presents a significant risk, such as a sex offender, juveniles generally are not placed in a detention center for their first offense.

My general philosophy is that the private sector runs things better and more effeciently than the government. Given the different needs for individual juveniles, it is nice to have choices for different types of treatment facilities to rehabilitate the juvenile. In other words, the private sector has done a nice job in creating innovative facilities and programs for juveniles. I would hate to see this innovation stifled by government-control.

Further, I do not see the prospect of corruption increased by privately-run juvenile facilities. While I understand your point, it could be expounded to all of the many different areas of the law that judges are involved in making decisions. The potential for corruption exists by virtue of the power inherent in the position. Moreover, government itself is no guarantee against corruption - as demonstrated by this side episode.

The important thing to remember is that there are hundreds of judges in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. These 2 judges are a disgrace - but a very small minority. The overwhelming majority of judges are hard working, honest men and women.

Jason Legg

Jason Legg said...

A juvenile proceeding has two components: (1) an adjudication hearing; and (2) a disposition hearing. It is important to remember these two items. The adjudication hearing is the equivalent of a trial, except that there is no jury. The judge determines if the child should be adjudicated of being delinquent. In other words the judge determines that the child has committed an act that, if he were an adult, would be a crime.

If the child has been adjudicated, then, and only then, do we get to the question of disposition. Disposition is similar to a sentencing proceeding, except to the extent that its purpose is to rehabilitate the juvenile offender.

From what I understand of the Luzerne County situation, the alleged corruption occurred in the disposition phase. In other words, the child had committed some crime, and the judges were using detention as the default for disposition orders.

We need to be careful when we suggest that the judges were dealing with "innocent" children. While the children may have been dealt with inappropriately, I have not seen anything to suggest that they were not properly adjudicated for the juvenile offense that brought them before the court. There is a special judge appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reviewing all of those cases. The report of that judge will ultimately disclose whether any children were wrongly adjudicated for an offense that they did not commit.

Further, there are numerous class action lawsuits that have been filed. The civil proceeding will also lead to an analysis of the propriety of the action of the judges in these cases.

In the end, the judges are facing consequences. They have pled guilty to federal offenses including fraud and tax evasion. They will be imprisoned. They have lost their positions. They will likely be disbarred by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. They will face the consequences in connection with the civil lawsuits that could include monetary damages.

We should condemn the corruption and lament its occurence. But let us also look at a system that has acted to correct the problem through incarceration, removal and potential monetary damages. Lady Justice has many forms of punishment.

Mark said...

Mr. Legg,

For an individual who obviously sees himself as 'conservative,' your last comment on this Lady Justice thread reeks of liberal political correctness. You're saying whatever is politically correct in your position to say.

Your first response to my post fairly and with intellectual honesty disagreed with my suggestion. This last post, however, embarrases the idea of intellectual honesty. Unless you can show that the judges making the adjudication decision were different than the judges making the disposition decision, the distinction between the two phases is irrelevant for this discussion.
If the judges were willing to corruptly take kickbacks for sending children to the juvie detention centers, then obviously the *same* judges would have been willing to adjudicate them unfairly as well in order to put the kids in the position to be corruptly sent to the juvie halls.

The NY Times, among others, has chronicled what some of the 'offenses' of these juveniles were. I'm sure you've seen the story of the child who made a myspace parody page of a school administrator. Do you think juvenile detention is the proper sentence for that child? I may not have known you all that well back in the day but I knew you well enough to know that you were not heartless.

What these judges did is horrifying to anyone who works in the justice system. If anything, your position requires you to be harsher with these judges than you would be with others. To even suggest that all these children --up to 2500 children -- could have been properly handled by these judges is outlandish.

These judges have acted with malice, with evil intent to line their own pockets. You were on the right track with your first blogpost on the topic (although connecting the judges to Nifong made little sense to me, except that it reflects your conservative bent (no offense)). Your last comment, on the other hand, embarrasses you.

I'm sure you're an excellent D.A. But you can do better than your last post on this topic.

Sincerely,

Mark Miller

Jason Legg said...

Mark,

I reviewed your recent post, and was surprised by the bent and nature of it. I then went back and reviewed my last post to find the offensive material, i.e., the material that "reeked of liberal political correctness." Unfortunately, I am still uncertain as to the reason for your opinion that the post was inappropriate.

First, let me say in no uncertain terms that the judges need to be condemned. Second, I am certain that the corruption of the judges had the potential to impact upon the adjudication phase of the juvenile proceeding. In other words, there is no doubt that the corruption may have led to wrongful adjudications that would enable the judges to get to the detention phase, and, upon getting to that stage, allowed the judges to line their own pockets by ordering the children detained.

The reason that I have more faith in the adjudication stage probably requires some explanation as to how juvenile charges are initiated in the Commonwealth. First, a law enforcement officer must file a petition based upon an investigation where the law enforcement officer has determined that probable cause exists to support the charges. The petition would go either to the prosecutor's office or the juvenile probation department. From their, the juvenile probation department would conduct an "intake" with the offending juvenile. At this point, no official charges have actually been filed. Some of these cases would be resolved with what is known as an "informal adjudication," i.e., nothing formal is ever pursued.

The juvenile probation officer would review the case with a prosecutor to determine whether the case should proceed with a formal juvenile petition. This review includes an assessment of the evidence in the case, in addition to a determination of whether a formal proceeding is necessary to rehabilitate the juvenile offender. Only after this review would a juvenile petition be filed that would require judicial intervention.

As such, in terms of the adjudication phase, three sets of independent eyes have usually reviewed the case and determined that there is sufficient evidence before it even gets to a judge: the law enforcement officer, the juvenile probation officer, and the prosecutor. This would be the reason that it would be surprising that the adjudication portion of any of the proceedings in Luzerne County were inappropriate.

That having been said, I have read some of the accounts of what happened to children after their adjudication -- and it was inappropriate and egregious. As I stated previously, detention is usually the last resort - not the first. The financial motivation of the tainted judges clearly made detention the preferred option for obvious reasons. The post was not meant as a defense of anything the judges did -- only a caveat that I have not seen anything suggesting that the adjudications were improper.

This may change after the investigation concludes -- and you are right that the tainted judges would be more likely to adjudicate in order to get to the disposition phase, where they could make their money. This makes logical sense - but it would also require the system to have wholly broken down in the sense that all of the other eyes that reviewed the case must have failed (or been corrupt) as well. I was not suggesting that the judges should have been handling the cases -- it is clear that they should not have been. This point, however, does not suddenly indicate that every child brought before them never committed any crime. Such a position is plainly absurd.

In terms of the reference to Nifong, I cannot understand how this is a conservative or liberal reference. I do not even know what political party the man belonged to -- nor do I know what political party the judges belonged to. Corrpution destroys and undermines the system judicial system, regardless of which political party was involved.

Thank you for your input and for reading - this has been the best blog since its inception, and I appreciate your input and it was nice to hear from you.

Jason

Mark said...

Mr. Legg,

In the cold light of day, my comments were a little over the top. More worthy of a shooting the breeze session after midnight in J-Hall than a conversation between two attorneys. It is to your credit that you posted them, anyway. I was working late last night, used your blog as a distraction from work, etc. I'm usually pretty good without an editor but obviously not in this case!

I can't think of too many more offensive abuses of authority of recent vintage than this Luzerne County judicial situation. Therefore, when it appeared you were dialing-back your criticism (drawing the adjudication vs. disposition distinction), it set off my overzealous civil rights-attorney alarm bells.

Since you didn't know Nifong's political party, I apologize for that presumption, as well.

You explained quite well why the adjudication phase cannot be as easily tainted as the disposition phase -- something I didn't get from your first reference to the adjudication phase in the previous post. I appreciate that, and now better understand the point you were making. As an attorney in Florida, I was not aware of the judicial process in PA regarding juvenile delinquency.

I have enjoyed reading your blog and learning about your career post-U of Scranton via the blog. Like you, I clerked for a federal district court judge -- a coincidence I found not very surprising after some thought.

I am glad you are doing well and again, apologize for jumping all over you in my previous comments.

Sincerely,

Mark Miller