Achieving Justice after a Judge inflicts Evil – The Story of The Citizens’ Voice


This the story of The Citizens’ Voice by Scott Lynett:

My concerns began when a local attorney, who is a friend of mine, pulled me aside at a party.

“I need to talk to you about your case in front of Judge Ciavarella.”

It was 2005 and The Citizens’ Voice, the newspaper where I had recently become publisher, was being sued for libel by Thomas Joseph, a local businessman. While the case was serious, I had reviewed the record, spoken to our lawyers and concluded that the newspaper was on solid legal ground. Our trial was coming up in a couple of months. I felt we had a very good defense.

“OK,” I replied. “Let’s talk.”

“Call me Monday,” was his curt reply.

I reached him on his cellphone on Monday. “Is this a good time?”

“No, not on the phone and not at your office and not at my office.” He then named a local restaurant where we could meet for a cup of coffee.

We met that afternoon. After exchanging pleasantries, he got right to the point.

“There’s a reason that your case is in front of Ciavarella.”

I was confused. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know why it’s there, but I know it’s there for a reason. Things don’t get into that courtroom by accident.”

I was stunned. I had heard rumors of judicial corruption in Luzerne County, but it was always vague, nothing specific. This was the first time someone with deep knowledge of the courthouse told me not only that it was real, but that The Citizens’ Voice, my family’s company, could be a victim.

I spoke to our attorneys. Judge assignments in Luzerne County were supposed to be random, yet our case repeatedly landed in front of Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. Our lawyers had already requested to be moved to a different judge and been denied. They were suspicious and concerned, but had no option but to proceed to trial.

The non-jury trial was a sham. Ciavarella was openly hostile toward our witnesses. While our attorneys did the best they could, I felt it was clear that Ciavarella had a bias in favor of Joseph.

The trial concluded after a week of testimony. We felt that despite the judge’s bias, our attorneys had done well. Our feeling was that even if Joseph won, there would be a relatively small monetary award since the evidence of damages was very weak.

We waited for months for a verdict. When it finally came, it was the largest libel verdict in the history of Luzerne County. Ciavarella found that The Citizens’ Voice libeled Joseph and awarded him $3.5 million. We were flabbergasted.

When we read the opinion, our suspicions deepened. Ciavarella wrote the opinion in such a way as to make it virtually appeal-proof. We knew that a successful appeal was highly unlikely due to Ciavarella’s interpretation of the evidence.

We decided to appeal nonetheless. We continued to hear rumors of corruption at the courthouse involving Ciavarella and Judge Michael T. Conahan. We were trying to buy time. Besides, we weren’t going down without a fight. Especially when we felt that we’d been cheated.

In September 2008, as expected, we lost our appeal in the Superior Court. Although it was a long shot, we decided to press on to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The chatter about pending arrests in the corruption investigation was growing louder. In May of that year, Dave Janoski, our projects editor at The Citizens’ Voice, had published the first documented connection between Ciavarella, Conahan and a high-flying attorney named Bob Powell. It seemed unlikely, but maybe something would turn up that could help us.

Everything changed on Jan. 26, 2009, when federal authorities charged Conahan and Ciavarella in the “kids-for-cash” scandal. While it did not relate directly to our case, we and our lawyers felt that we might be able to find some evidence that supported our theory that Ciavarella rigged the case against us.

Our attorney, Tim Hinton, started digging. He soon found witnesses that would connect crime figure Billy D’Elia with Conahan. Tim even went so far as to locate the waitresses from Perkins restaurant that had served Conahan and D’Elia breakfast during their regular meetings.

This evidence was enough to convince the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to take the extraordinary step of ordering a special hearing in front of Lehigh County President Judge William Platt to examine Ciavarella’s handling of our case. At that hearing, under a masterful cross-examination by our attorney Tom McGough, Ciavarella admitted that he was “a corrupt judge.”

Platt found that Ciavarella’s handling of the case improper, threw out the $3.5 million verdict and ordered a new trial.

Following that trial, held in 2011, Judge Joseph Van Jura found in favor of The Citizens’ Voice.

While we were happy with our victory, it made me realize how powerful a judge in a courtroom could be and what unbridled evil he could inflict, if he chose. Our company had the resources to fight corruption in our case. We had lawyers, money and time. And still, in the end, we got lucky.

Those kids in Ciavarella’s courtroom never had a shot.

Thanks for reading.

Scott Lynett

Scott Lynett is CEO for Times-Shamrock Communications and Publisher of The Citizens’ Voice. His Publisher’s Perspective column appears occasionally.




When you hear about a judge committing misconduct, dishonesty, or corruption, stop and realize that the judge has probably done this to MANY others.

William M. Windsor

I, William M. Windsor, am not an attorney.  This website expresses my OPINIONS.   The comments of visitors or guest authors to the website are their opinions and do not therefore reflect my opinions.  Anyone mentioned in any article is invited to respond on the record.  This website does not provide legal advice.  I do not give legal advice.  I do not practice law.  This website is to expose government corruption, law enforcement corruption, political corruption, and judicial corruption. Whatever this website says about the law is presented in the context of how I or others perceive the applicability of the law to a set of circumstances if I (or some other author) was in the circumstances under the conditions discussed.  Despite of my concerns about lawyers in general, I suggest that anyone with legal questions consult an attorney for an answer, particularly after reading anything on this website.  The law is a gray area at best.  Please read our Legal Notice and Terms.



{jcomments on}

Leave a Reply