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Juvenile justice scandal in focus

March 17. 2013 2:52AM

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WILKES-BARRE – The juvenile justice scandal involving two former Luzerne County judges will be the topic of an upcoming public forum at King's College.

The free program, Ethics in the Valley: After the Judicial Scandals, will be held at 7 p.m. on Jan. 22 in the Burke Auditorium of the William G. McGowan School of Business on the corner of North River and West Union streets.

Times Leader reporter Terrie Morgan-Besecker and William Ecenbarger, author of Kids for Cash: Two Judges, Thousands of Children and a $2.8 Million Kickback Scheme, will be part of a four-person panel discussion.

Former judges Mark A. Ciavarella and Michael T. Conahan were accused of participating in a kickback scheme connected to the construction of two private, for-profit juvenile detention centers and the placement of youths in the facilities in Pittston Township and Butler County in the western part of the state.

A federal jury convicted Ciavarella nearly two years ago. He has been serving a 28-year prison sentence.

Conahan pleaded guilty and in September 2011 was sentenced to 17 ½ years in prison.

The program will focus on four questions, said Bernard Prusak, director of the college's McGowan Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility, sponsor of the forum.

Morgan-Besecker, who covered the scandal, and Ecenbarger, a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter who was part of a team awarded the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, will speak on what happened, said Prusak.

Are there important lessons for going forward? follows, said Prusak.

Panelists attorney Joseph Cosgrove, a former Luzerne County judge who teaches constitutional law and civil rights at King's, and Margaret Hogan will deal with the second question. Hogan is chairwoman of the county's Accountability, Conduct and Ethics Commission and founding director of the University of Portland's Garaventa Center for Catholic and Intellectual Life and American Culture.

Also to be answered are What's happening now? and What should be done going forward? said Prusak.

In the event of inclement weather the program will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 23.

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