RE: Luzerne County Damages Hearing Update, No. 3:09-CV-286

On September 27, 2021, Judge Christopher C. Conner began hearing testimony about former-Judges Mark A. Ciavarella (“Ciavarella”) and Michael T. Conahan (“Conahan”) for their roles in the Luzerne County “Kids for Cash” case filed in 2009. On August 16, 2022, Judge Conner issued his opinion (here: The order is attached to this letter.

At the outset of his 41-page opinion, Judge Conner remarks, “[t]heir collective testimony paints the portrait of justice derailed by a presiding judge who ruled with breathtaking arrogance and an unfathomable disregard of due process.”

Judge Conner found each plaintiff completely credible in their recollection of what they experienced. He used direct quotes from witness testimony to memorialize what it was like to appear in Ciavarella’s courtroom, the senseless reasons juveniles were sent to detention facilities, and the harm – physical, emotional, educational, and reputational – suffered as a result.

His opinion ends by recognizing that “[t]he law is powerless to restore to plaintiffs the weeks, months, and years lost because of the actions” of Ciavarella and Conahan. It is the Court’s hope “that by listening to their experiences and acknowledging the depth of the damage done to their lives, we can provide them with a measure of closure and, with this memorandum opinion, ensure that their stories are never forgotten.”

In total, Judge Conner awarded $106,296,945.53 in compensatory damages to those who testified at the Damages Hearing. If you testified and would like to know how much you were awarded, please contact Judge Conner reached this number after reviewing case law and determining that each plaintiff was eligible for compensatory damages at an initial base rate of $1,000.00 per day of wrongful detention. The Court then considered all record evidence, including multiple reviews of testimony received at trial, and adjusted your award to meaningfully reflect your unique circumstances and experiences. Per the releases executed in past settlement agreements, your award was reduced by the sum total of your prior settlement awards. Judge Conner also awarded $100,000,000.00 in punitive damages. Judge Conner did not award any damages to the parents who testified or submitted affidavits.

At present, there is no money available to satisfy the award. To determine if there are assets to satisfy the award, my firm will schedule and take the depositions of Ciavarella and Conahan. This will likely take place in 2023. When a date has been set for the depositions, my office will send an update via e-mail.

Your individual stories made this historic verdict happen. As was Judge Conner, we were emotionally overcome many times throughout the hearing as we learned the details of your experiences. Unfortunately, this verdict does not erase those experiences or the long-lasting impacts of what happened years ago. It is our hope that the opportunity to share your story with the Court offered you some semblance of closure.

If any of your contact information changes, please notify my office via e-mail at

List of Relevant Documents:

  • August 18, 2022 RE: Luzerne County Damages Hearing Update, No. 3:09-CV-286 PDF
  • Doc 1863 Order Damages HearingPDF
  • Doc. 1862 Memorandum Opinion Damages HearingPDF


    Due to the number of Plaintiffs and Fact Witnesses who wish to present testimony on damages, Judge Conner modified the schedule of the damages hearing as follows:

    A hearing to assess damages against defendants Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr. shall take place during the weeks of September 7th, 2021, and October 4, 2021, commencing at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, September 27, 2021 in Courtroom #4, Max Rosenn United States Courthouse, 197 South Main Street, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

    More information will be sent out soon regarding the scheduling of your individual testimony. If you have any questions about the Damages Hearing, please email Colleen Swiers at

    List of Relevant Documents:

  • August 23, 2021 Order Modifying Damages Hearing Schedule PDF


    If you appeared before former Judge Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr., at any time between January 1, 2003, and May 28, 2008, and participated in the litigation class action in this case, you may be entitled to a further award.

    On June 25, 2009, a Master Class Action and Master Long Form Complaint were filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The claims against all the defendants except defendants Ciavarella and Conahan were resolved. On December 6, 2013, Judge Caputo entered default judgment against defendant Conahan because he never responded to the complaints. On January 9, 2014, Judge Caputo granted summary judgment against defendant Ciavarella for matters which he did not have judicial immunity. Judge Caputo deferred an assessment of damages against defendants Ciavarella and Conahan until a later date. This civil action was assigned to Judge Christopher C. Conner after Judge Caputo’s passing.

    To assess damages for your individual claim(s) against defendants Ciavarella and Conahan, you have the right to testify, in person or virtually, before Judge Conner during the week of September 27, 2021. It is your choice whether to testify. Your testimony will be a conversation with Judge Conner and an opportunity to tell him your story and about the injuries you suffered, or continue to suffer, because of the acts of defendants Ciavarella and Conahan. You may present a wide range of evidence regarding your injuries, including but not limited to, documentation of expenses for medical or mental health treatment or other out-of-pocket expenses, and testimony regarding any emotional or psychological injuries.

    After you testify, Judge Conner may issue an additional compensatory damages award. He may also award punitive damages. After Judge Conner rules, we will have to try to determine what assets, if any, either defendant may have to satisfy the awards. After discovery, if we find out that defendants Ciavarella and Conahan have any assets, we will seek to place them into an account so that the Court can approve a plan of distribution.



    Forego additional potential damages awards for injuries caused by the unlawful conduct of defendants Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr., and Michael T. Conahan.

    By doing nothing, you are waiving your right to seek additional damages from defendants Ciavarella and Conahan in this case. 


    By August 30, 2021, elect to participate in the damages hearing during the week of September 27, 2021, by video conference or in person.

    Present any evidence, including testimony, regarding injuries you have incurred as a result of the actions of defendants Ciavarella and Conahan.

    See the attached letter for more information about the Damages Hearing. If you have any questions about the Damages Hearing, please email Colleen Swiers at

    List of Relevant Documents:

  • Court Approved Letter re Damages Hearing PDF


    More information on the Powell Defendants Settlement.

    More information on the Mericle Settlement.

    More information about the Provider Defendants Settlement.