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Clean up juvenile courts

Now that a state panel has reported its findings from investigating Luzerne County's "kids for cash" scandal, Gov. Rendell and court officials should act swiftly to implement needed reforms.

The Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice was created last August to look into charges that two juvenile-court judges took millions of dollars in kickbacks to place young offenders in for-profit detention centers.

Federal authorities charged Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. with racketeering. Conahan has agreed to plead guilty, while Ciavarella awaits trial. The scandal led the state Supreme Court to toss out thousands of juvenile convictions.

The commission cited a lack of oversight in the state court system. It said corruption in Luzerne County had existed for years, and that prosecutors, public defenders, and probation officials shared responsibility for allowing the situation to go on for so long.

Among other things, the panel said the Judicial Conduct Board must be more diligent in investigating and prosecuting misconduct by judges, and that efforts must increase to ensure juveniles have legal representation.
The report gives Rendell and Chief Justice Ronald Castille the base they need to launch reform.