Sunday, August 14, 2011

"You Stand for Nothing"

 Commentary on Ciavarella Sentencing

I sat in Courtroom Two, staring at the monitor with anxiety while watching the live proceedings taking place in the courtroom next to me.  First the defense spoke, then the prosecution, then Judge Kosik.  I listened in stunned silence as Mr. Kosik sentenced former rat judge “Scooch” Ciavarella to 336 months in a federal penitentiary to be served consecutively.

I, like many others in that courtroom, have lost faith in the integrity of our judicial system.  A judicial system that protects the privileged and well-connected.  Laws and procedures written by the privileged, well-connected lawyers to protect their financial and special interests first, rather than procedures designed to strengthen a system designed to protect the innocent.  A judicial system where one buys his justice.  A judicial system where judges, lawyers and prosecutors routinely break bread before and after their day in court.  A judicial system that has become so corrupted on so many levels that it is designed now to intimidate the accused rather than being a place to seek justice. 

So yes, for a brief moment, a little faith had been restored in this corrupted judicial system we enjoy in America today.  Thank you, Mr. Kosik, and a thank you from the many victims and observers I spoke with in the courtroom and on courthouse steps who also finally believed the punishment meted out came close to fitting the crime.

That Thursday as I started my early morning drive from my home in Factoryville to the Federal courthouse in Scranton, I couldn't help take notice what an absolutely gorgeous day it was, perhaps the nicest morning of the summer to date.  My thoughts turned to what it would be like to be incarcerated, losing the simple ability to enjoy such a day, to the juveniles deprived of these days because of greed.  I thought of the sheep-like behavior of those working in this corrupted judge’s chambers, whether or not part of the racket but still not blowing the whistle. Hoping that this low-life, and eventually his cohorts, would be sentenced to lengthy prison sentences.

The abject evil of what this rat was able to subject fellow citizens to was magnified after arriving in Scranton and conducting interviews with persons who went before him.  Children's lives ruined and tarnished by such petty offenses as arguments on MySpace;  an 11 year old incarcerated for not being able to pay a fine; first offense school yard altercations; and the list goes on and on for the thousands of kids sent away for minor offenses.  Families torn apart from their loved ones without even a trial or legal representation, and financial hardships imposed on emotionally destroyed relatives is heart wrenching at the very least.  The thought of watching a loved one degraded and ridiculed by this evil judge, then witness one's child fall into such a state of depression that the only way out is suicide is beyond imagining. To think this rat individual and others around him used this suffering for their own personal ATM machine to enjoy the fine wines, fancy yachts, and good food makes me nauseous.   

As disgusted as I am and appalled by Ciavarella's actions, it pales in comparison for the contempt I have for those that knew something was not right and walked out day after day, with their heads held low and saying nothing.  The old adage of if you “don't stand for something you stand for nothing” is very apropos, as these individuals stood for nothing.  In the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “No man who is corrupt, no man who condones corruption in others can possibly do his duty by the community.”  For those officers of the court, policeman, probation officers, lawyers, judges, stenographers -- anyone who was too cowardly to speak up for innocent children when they needed someone at their vulnerable most -- are not fit to serve as public officials or court officers. 

As reprehensible as Ciavarella's actions were perhaps those who stayed silent, those too afraid to speak up are worse.  Once again I quote Teddy Roosevelt, “We cannot afford to differ on the question of honesty if we expect our republic permanently to endure. Honesty is not so much a credit as an absolute prerequisite to efficient service to the public. Unless a man is honest, we have no right to keep him in public life; it matters not how brilliant his capacity.”  These sheep amongst us need to be identified so this injustice is not allowed to repeat itself.  These sheep need to move on to careers that do not require any backbone, or any moral or ethical background.  This sorry chapter in Luzerne County's history must not be forgotten with the incarceration of one sorry judge alone, for surely this is not a problem that exists in Luzerne County only.  Let there be an example made not only of those who committed crimes but also those who allowed these abuses to continue by their cowardly behavior.  The only way faith can be restored in our judicial system is to hold people accountable when they commit an injustice, and demand from those who work in the system that they report an injustice when they see it.

I suggest a wall of shame listing all those that practiced and served in the courtrooms of Conahan and Ciavarella.  A listing of all those probation officers too afraid to speak out, a listing of all those public defenders, public prosecutors, and lawyers who think so much of themselves but lack the self respect to speak out when they knew these horrors were taking place.  They have lost and no longer deserve any kind of respect from the public as they have no respect for themselves.  Judge Ciavarella's scheme of “Cash for Kids” was not accomplished solely by two corrupt judges and a businessman but was allowed to continue because of all the sheep that surrounded him.

Engraved in marble in the Museum of Natural of History is the following quote:

A man's usefulness depends upon his living up to his ideals insofar as he can.
It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.
All daring and courage, all iron endurance of misfortune-make for a finer, nobler type of manhood.
Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life and the duty of life.

We all have a duty in life to do the right thing.  The time has come to demand from those in public authority to do the right thing.  We must not accept anything less.

August 12, 2011
Lou Jasikoff

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