The LuLac Edition #471, April 30th, 2008
PHOTO INDEX: THE JUDICIAL ROBES WHICH HAVE SOME PRETTY IMPRESSIVE COAT TAILS IF YOU'RE A BROTHER IN LAW AND THE LUZERNE COUNTY COURTHOUSE.
If David E. Kelly didn’t invent “Boston Legal” he could have come to Luzerne County and taken a look at our legal system here. The latest comes from the Philadelphia where a public interest is saying young people in Luzerne County are being denied their right to an attorney. Joe Holden of WBRE TV broke this story last night. The group is asking the state Supreme Court to look into in hundreds of past and current Luzerne County juvenile court cases.
The Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia said the center was thrown into action after research showed that 50 percent of youths who went through Luzerne County’s juvenile court system in 2005 and 2006 were not represented by an attorney – a figure the center says is 10 times the state average. The question has to be “why?” Are we some backward “Hooterville” that can’t even comprehend young people charged with a crime deserve legal representation? We have 8 county judges and we’re getting one more. My feeling is these kids (and I am no fan of kids let alone those who break the law) were ignored by the legal system because lawyers and judges in this county are just plain lazy. No corruption here, because God knows the legal eagles can’t make a buck on a 16 year old whose family has given up on them. Nope, ship them to a facility, let them plead guilty and at least someone will get some money (the facility housing the children) and put these kids on the Constitutional garbarge heap. After all, they’re just the kids of working class, lower class and poor families. If they lived on Upper Demunds Road, different outcome, different story.
According to Marsha Levick telling the Times Leader, “The failure to provide even the “most minimal” constitutional protections to those youths resulted in many making admissions of guilt without fully understanding their legal rights or the consequences”. Levick is one of the people who filed a petition.
I love Mrs. LuLac and I love my sister. But oh did I make a mistake when I picked out brothers in law. Both are honorable men who make fine livings in the Newspaper and Surveying fields. But the companies they work for can’t use my skills, or lack thereof. Now, if I were related to someone in the Court system, well can anyone say “bonanza!!!”? The latest revelations from under the dome are that a Luzerne County judge’s brother-in-law has been paid $877,880 to provide psychological services to the court system. And that work wasn’t publicly advertised. Hell, it wasn’t even divided up like the prison food bills!
The psychologist, Frank Vita, is married to the sister of Mike Conahan, who is now a senior judge in the county Court of Common Pleas.
Psychology is considered a professional service by county officials. My feeling about psychology is highlighted by watching “The Sopranos”. If you really watch the show, it is not about slamming organized crime or Italian Americans but the pathetic and haughty counselor Tony subjects himself to every week. I think if you cornered David Chase, he'd say it was a show that dissed the pyschology people. To me the profession is a sham and populated by people who ask us “how we feel” and “what do you think?” I have no use for anyone in that field because they don’t do anything to solve a problem. I went to a few sessions in the 80s to try to get my reaction to commitment straightened out. Guess what? I did it on my own without the pointy head probing of overeducated, bloviating furrowed brows who give you no reaction whatsoever when you talk to them. They charge you $150.00 an hour for you to solve your own troubles.
Anyway, I digress. In the County the 2004 purchasing policy requires public requests for proposals or qualifications for professional services over $7,500. The mandate is meant to give everyone an opportunity at the work and to gather cost comparisons, though there’s no requirement that the work will go to the individual or business that submits the lowest price.
And get this, Judge Mark Ciavarella said he has no problem advertising the psychology work, but he stressed that he does not believe the court is required to abide by the county’s purchasing policy. Telling the Times Leader, “The court is a separate branch of government. They (commissioners) can’t dictate how I manage the court system, as long as I am in compliance with the state law,” Ciavarella said. To their everlasting credit, both Commissioners Urban and Petrilla disagreed and said since the county funds the boys on the third floor with taxpayers dollars, maybe he should follow what the County does. In the 80s a well respected President Judge who was a long standing Republican icon was throwing a little bit of a fit over his appropriation from the County. The County Administrator at the time, a long standing and well respected Republican himself was thought by the news media to buckle under to the Judge. I remember him saying, “The Judge does what he does and I do what I do. He runs the courts and I give him the money to run the Courts”. My how things have changed. So if the Judges are a separate branch of government, maybe Petrilla and Urban can get a couple of double wides and move the Judge’s offices to the Forty Fort Airport for starters.
Getting back to the brother in law, here’s what he made the past few years.
$233,705 in 2004;
$189,495 in 2005;
$200,160 in 2006;
$180,360 in 2007
and $74,160 this year to date.
Now that’s what I call brotherly love.