Deposed former Luzerne County Judge Ann H. Lokuta, silent for more than 15 months after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected her appeal, re-emerged with a vengeance Wednesday, firing a federal civil rights lawsuit at the colleagues and officials she said conspired to oust her from the bench.
Lokuta, the first woman to sit on the Luzerne County bench, filed the lawsuit in an attempt to reverse a state judicial discipline panel’s ruling four years ago that removed her from office, stripped her state-funded medical benefits, life insurance and vested pension, and precluded her from holding future judicial office. Lokuta, 59, also asked for unspecified monetary damages.
Lokuta and her attorneys, George A. Michak and Ronald V. Santora, reiterated in the lawsuit her long-held contention that former county president Judges Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan orchestrated her removal because she cooperated with federal investigators probing their pocketing of $2.8 million in payoffs from the backers of a pair of for-profit detention centers.
Lokuta claimed the former judges testified against her before the state Court of Judicial Discipline to punish her for continuing to speak to federal agents. The former judges, she said, used their influence over courthouse personnel to persuade more than two dozen other witnesses to substantiate allegations Lokuta showed up late for court, berated attorneys and court staff members and misappropriated county resources.
“Lokuta was subject to relentless intimidation and retaliation by (Conahan and Ciavarella), particularly Conahan, as they controlled the Luzerne County Courthouse as their private domain and crushed anyone who failed to follow their directives,” the lawsuit said.
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Lokuta sues former judges over removal from bench
Lokuta’s Last Shot at Reinstatement