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Luzerne County sits in the heart of Pennsylvania's struggling coal country; Wilkes-Barre is the county seat, a hardscrabble, blue-collar city that knew hard times even before this latest recession.
People there were shocked in January when federal prosecutors announced that respected county judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan had pleaded guilty to tax evasion and honest services fraud, the result of a lengthy investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI. Yesterday the Pa. State Supreme Court overturned hundreds of convictions of low-level offenders, ruling that all juveniles who had appeared in Ciavarella's courtroom without lawyers between 2003 and 2008 had not been adequately informed when they waived their right to counsel.
Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella (shiv-ah-REL'-lah) says he's entitled to judicial immunity for decisions he made from the bench, even if they were corrupt.