IN THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA MIDDLE DISTRICT
October 13, 2010
IN RE J.V.R.; H.T., A MINOR THROUGH HER MOTHER, L.T.; ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND SIMILARLY SITUATED YOUTH
Motion to Amend Court's March 26, 2009 Order
AND NOW, this 13th day of October, 2010, upon consideration of the "Motion of J.V.R., H.T., et al. to Amend the Court's March 26, 2009 Order," it is hereby ordered as follows:
On March 26, 2009, this Court entered an order in this matter, adopting and approving the First Interim Report and Recommendations submitted by Special Master Arthur Grim, subject to specific qualifications, including:
In order to promptly identify the affected juveniles, the Special Master requests that this Court authorize the Luzerne County Probation Office to release copies of the Luzerne County Juvenile Court daily case lists from January 1, 2003 to May 31, 2008 ("daily lists") to the district Attorney of Luzerne County and an attorney for the Juvenile Law Center ("JLC"). Since this Court's prior order of February 11, 2009, appointing the Special Master, we are aware that the JLC has filed a federal civil law suit seeking monetary damages and attorneys' fees arising from the underlying Juvenile Court adjudications and consent decrees. Notwithstanding the JLC's adversarial role, the Court recognizes that the JLC has been of assistance to the Special Master in addressing the situation in Luzerne County and remains fairly positioned to represent the interests of those juveniles with whom it has specific representation agreements in the proceedings below. However, the Special Master's authorized task is singular: to identify every affected juvenile for purposes of recommending immediate appropriate relief from his or her criminal consent decree and adjudication. Accordingly, the Court directs that the release of these lists is for the sole purpose of identifying those juveniles - whether they are presently represented or not - who fit the criteria for the accelerated disposition proposed by the Special Master, and not for purposes of collateral litigation. The release shall be subject to the security provisions identified by the Special Master, with discretion remaining in the Special Master to modify or expand these procedures as implementation of this amendment and subsequent events may require.
Pursuant to this Court's March 26, 2009 Order, the Luzerne County Probation Office provided the Juvenile Law Center ("JLC") with the daily lists.
The purpose of this Court's directive that the daily case lists were to be provided to the JLC was to identify juveniles who were detrimentally affected by the misconduct of former Luzerne County Common Pleas Court Judges Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella, and to facilitate the swift remediation of the effects of those adjudications, not to advance collateral litigation in federal court seeking monetary damages. At this stage of the King's Bench proceedings, this Court has directed that all of the adjudications and dispositions of the affected juveniles are to be expunged. The use of the daily case lists to identify the affected juveniles has accomplished what was intended by our March 26, 2009 order. Those juveniles have been afforded the relief that was contemplated by the exercise of our King's Bench powers.
We observe, however, that this Court's expungement of the juveniles' adjudications and dispositions and enforcement of such expungement orders was subsequently enjoined in part by the Honorable A. Richard Caputo's order dated June 9, 2010, in the collateral federal litigation docketed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania as B.W., by Florence Wallace v. Powell, et al., No. 3:09-cv-0286; Conway v. Conahan, No. 3:09-cv-0291; H.T. v. Ciavarella, No. 3:09-cv-0357; and Humanik v. Ciavarella, No. 3:09-cv-0630.
On July 28, 2010, the JLC filed the instant "Motion of J.V.R., H.T., et al. to Amend the Court's March 26, 2009 Order," requesting that this Court's March 26 order be amended, essentially to advance federal discovery and facilitate a possible settlement. Thus, the JLC requested an amended order including language that would authorize the JLC to:
share information from the daily lists with parties to the following civil actions pending in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District: H.T. v. Ciavarella et al., Civil Action No. 3:09-cv 0357, B.W., by Florence Wallace v. Powell et al., Civil Action No. 3:09-cv-0286, Conway v. Conahan et al., Civil Action No. 3:09-cv-0630 (collectively, the "federal civil cases"). If additional related civil actions are consolidated with the above-captioned federal civil cases, Juvenile Law Center may share information from the daily cases lists with those parties as well.
See JLC's proposed amended order at¶1.
The JLC advises that it participated in a settlement conference in the pending litigation in the U.S. District Court on June 11, 2010. The JLC filed the underlying motion, seeking approval to share the information from the daily case lists obtained in the state court proceedings with counsel for the plaintiffs, defendants, and defendants' insurance carriers who are involved in the collateral federal litigation pending in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
It appears that while the JLC was seeking this discovery-related relief here, the federal civil plaintiffs sought to secure the same essential information via subpoena of the records. It also appears that the Luzerne County Probation Department filed a Motion to Quash and/or Motion for Protective order. The Probation Department moved to quash the subpoena, asserting that the requested information was protected pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S.A. §6307 and Pa.R.J.C. 160. On September 2, 2010, Judge Caputo denied the motion to quash; presumably, the effect of the denial is that the daily case lists will be made available. The JLC did not apprise this Court of the pendency of parallel federal litigation over essentially the same discovery materials; it did not apprise this Court of Judge Caputo's decision; nor did it withdraw its current Motion, despite the fact that it apparently is moot.
In any event, this Court has accomplished the sole purpose for which our March 26, 2009 order permitted the release of the daily case, i.e., identifying those juveniles who fit the criteria for the accelerated remedial action in the state court proceedings. Obviously, it is proper that the federal court hearing a federal matter should determine what documents or evidence are necessary for the collateral litigation. This Court has previously communicated, as a matter of comity and cooperation, its intention to respect the federal court's orders. The question of what confidential material in Luzerne County juvenile matters should properly be disclosed for purposes of the JLC's ongoing federal civil litigation is a matter for the federal district court; any future such requests should be made exclusively in federal court.
Accordingly, the JLC's request for relief is denied.
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