>The first joke that came to mind was: “She’s one of Ciavarella’s success stories.”
When I got an update on Lisa (Scarborough) Spencer from her grandmother, it was almost all good news. She had earned her college degree, found a husband, landed a job, and at the age of 23 was mapping her future with thoughtful optimism.
It was good news because, back in 2004, Lisa’s run-in with then-Judge Mark Ciavarella became a centerpiece in a series of articles about juvenile justice in Luzerne County. Taken from home in shackles with no parent in sight, Lisa had spent five days in detention before Ciavarella gave her an indefinite sentence at a youth camp after only a cursory hearing.
Lisa had been fool enough, at age 16, to write an anonymous prank note about bringing a gun to school and taking aim at boys. In the post-Columbine era, she might as well have lit a keg of dynamite under the principal’s office. He and the justice system came down hard, and Ciavarella decided she was guilty of making terroristic threats. Never mind she had a spotless discipline record, a 3.8 GPA, and had fessed up to writing the note immediately, saying it was a joke, apologizing profusely and welcoming appropriate punishment.
Off she went.
The fascinating thing for me is that neither Lisa nor Ciavarella has changed, yet she was freed from her indefinite sentence early and began building a positive life with an upbeat attitude, while Ciavarella – the man who kept insisting he was straightening kids out so they wouldn’t turn to a life of crime – ends up the convicted felon facing up to 15 years in prison.
Proving once again that our county courthouse was built with an irony infrastructure.
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Success Story in the Face of Judge’s Failure