The state Supreme Court bowed to pressure and abandoned its plan to destroy the records of thousands of juveniles who appeared before a corrupt judge between 2003 and 2008.
In a letter made public Monday, the high court said it now supports the preservation of as many as 6,500 juvenile court records that contain evidence of the scandal in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The court's decision will make it easier for youths to pursue federal claims against former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella, who was charged earlier this year with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to put juvenile offenders in privately owned detention centers.
The records' preservation will "ensure that the whole story of what we think is probably the largest judicial corruption scandal in the history of the country to be told and to be understood," said Marsha Levick, legal director of the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which represents some of the youths.
The Supreme Court's reversal apparently puts an end to a dispute in which Levick and other attorneys had accused the justices of sabotaging plaintiffs' ability to recover damages from Ciavarella in federal court.
About 400 individuals ranging from their teens to their early 20s have sued Ciavarella, claiming he ran a kangaroo court in which he systemically denied them their constitutional rights, including the right to counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea. Other defendants include former Luzerne County Judge Michael Conahan and Luzerne County taxpayers.