Senior U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo ruled this week that the lawsuits involving the Luzerne County juvenile detention center scandal may proceed as a class action for the specific purpose of determining liability of the remaining defendants. The Court’s order is a huge victory for Class Plaintiffs.
In the Order, Caputo wrote: “the litigation is premised on claims by juveniles relating to the denial of their constitutional rights during the course of their adjudication proceedings … many class members harbor a distrust of the judicial system, rendering it unlikely that they will seek redress individually. Thus, allowing ‘[this case] to proceed as a class action would not be removing claims from the hands of the class members, but would instead afford them an opportunity to pursue them.’”
The certified classes, specifically defined in the Order, include more than 2,400 juveniles and their parents or guardians.
The Order also appoints Anapol Schwartz as Class Counsel, along with Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller and the Juvenile Law Center, and applauds “their impressive qualifications” and “considerable ability in prosecuting this case.” Class Counsel “has pursued this action vigorously and with great dedication on behalf of all Plaintiffs.” Anapol Schwartz partner Sol H. Weiss has led the helm as Class Counsel for Anapol Schwartz.
The remaining defendants in the civil-rights lawsuit include former judges Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan; PA Child Care LLC, Western PA Child Care LLC and Mid-Atlantic Youth Services Corp. (these three companies are referred to as “Provider Defendants” in court documents); and Robert J. Powell and Vision Holdings, the former co-owner of Provider Defendants.
Robert Mericle and Mericle Construction Co. are no longer defendants in the lawsuits. On December 14, 2012, the Court approved a $17.75 million settlement between Settlement Class Members and the Mericle parties.