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Debbie O'Leary
IU Maurer School of Law

James Boyd
IU Maurer School of Law

Last modified: Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Judicial expert discusses Pennsylvania federal fraud case

Feb. 24, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Two Pennsylvania judges pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges for accepting more than $2.6 million from the owners of private youth detention centers. They have been accused of receiving kickbacks for placing children in private detention facilities after shutting down the state's juvenile detention center in order to fund a multimillion-dollar lease for the private facilities.

Charles Geyh

Ann Schertz

Charles Geyh

Print-Quality Photo

According to Indiana University Maurer School of Law Professor Charles Geyh, the case exposes an ancient, but still relevant, form of corruption. "For centuries, Anglo-American law has declared that no one may be a judge in his own case," said Geyh, the John F. Kimberling Professor of Law. "In the past, that has meant (among other things) that no judge may keep the fines he assesses against litigants."

Geyh said the case reveals a downside risk to privatization, where an institution's financial well-being depends on the decisions judges make. "This creates an incentive for the institution to do whatever it can to influence judicial decision-making. In such situations, continued public confidence in the administration of justice demands that any effort to corrupt the decision-making process -- as was done here -- be punished swiftly, severely, and publicly."

Geyh, whose teaching and scholarship focus on the operation of state and federal courts in relation to the political branches of government and the legal profession, serves as co-reporter to the American Bar Association Joint Commission to Evaluate the Model Code of Judicial Conduct. He is the author of When Courts and Congress Collide: The Struggle for Control of America's Judicial System and co-author of Judicial Conduct and Ethics. Geyh can be reached at (812) 855-3210 or by e-mail at