Behind Bars

When Judges Judge Judges

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

In Pennsylvania, as in many states, an institution exists, the purpose of which is to judge judges.

Here in PA, it’s the Judicial Conduct Board (JCB), a body created by statute under the PA Supreme Court, which consists of 12 persons who are judges, lawyers and non-lawyers, half named by the Supreme Court, and the other half by the Governor.

Their job is to hear claims of judicial misconduct, and it has the power to discipline, retire or remove judges for violations of law and ethics (tit. 42 PA c.s. g 2101 et.seq)

As judges of the state’s judges, they are a powerful, albeit little known lot.

So where were they when one of the most explosive judicial scandals in memory rocked the state?

In a word, they were AWOL (Absent Without Leave).

In 2004, 2006, and twice in 2008 the JCB received detailed complaints against Luzerne County judges charging them with illegally sending hundreds of children to juvenile prison, while corruptly profiting from the scheme, and with paling around with local Mafiosi. The JCB received these complaints, filed them, and tabled them.

To “table” something is a fancy way of saying they did nothing.

Not only did they do nothing, they never referred it to another agency, State or Federal, for action.

Nor did they investigate any of the charges.

They did....nothing.

So the judges who sent kids to jail illegally, without benefit of legal counsel, and often on the most trifling of charges, (for example, one girl was imprisoned for making an unflattering web site about her school’s vice-principal), continued doing this for years.

How many children suffered during those years of JCB inaction?

Is this a PA thing? Perhaps—but I don’t think so. 

In essence, it’s a political thing; judges protecting other judges, or better—the system protecting the system., March 20, 2010