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High-flying former judges foiled -- again MARK GUYDISH OPINION

In a wonderful mix of chutzpah and hubris – call it Hubtzpah, or Chutzbris – thoroughly disgraced ex-Luzerne County judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan shot themselves in the legal foot with their own overloaded egos. A federal judge took a good look at their statements and actions since they first agreed to plead guilty to corruption, and – in a nutshell – said “you guys are a remorseless pair of putzes who don’t deserve a plea bargain.”

Well, really, if you’ve been following the case, you can’t be surprised.

These two men extorted – or at the very least, accepted -- millions for their part in shutting down a county-run juvenile detention facility and ensuring the success of a new, privately owned facility that gouged the county for every service it provided. We’re talking about a duo who had no problem profiting obscenely on the backs of our most vulnerable population, children on the cusp between solid citizenship and the deep end of the crime pool. The very nature of their actions proved both have egos visible from space and appetites enormous enough to embarrass a herd of elephants.

They gave justice a price tag, used their black robes to hide their own black hearts, and spent the profits partying in a luxury Florida condo like some brat heirs of the superrich. If they could do all that for years, justifying their own villainy to themselves daily while convicting others of lesser crimes, why wouldn’t they keep that haughty mindset even after admitting guilt. Arrogance is in their DNA. Their hearts pump pomposity and their glands secrete self-importance.

Quite a pair of characters

The written comments by U.S. Judge Edwin Kosik after he rejected their plea agreements said it all, and merit repeating.

According to a report prepared by the U.S. probation office, Conahan “refused to discuss the motivation behind his conduct, attempted to obstruct and impede justice and failed to clearly demonstrate affirmative acceptance of responsibility with his denials and contradictions of evidence.”

Ciavarella “has resorted to public statements of remorse, more for his personal circumstances, yet he continues to deny what he terms quid pro quo” in taking money while sending kids to the private center, calling it instead a “finder’s fee.” His comments are “self-serving and abundantly contradicted by the evidence the government proffers as offense conduct.”

Thus nearly six-months after charges were filed, justice remains unserved. Not because the case is weak or the system faltered, but because the perps are preposterous and were determined to prove they deserved more punishment than the plea bargain gave them.

Conahan remains cocky and Ciavarella shameless, and that may be how we ought refer to them from now on, as Cocky and Shameless, two judges who have devolved into caricatures, looking every day less like once-honorable men who succumbed to temptation and more like a cartoon duo, reminiscent of the pair of lab mice called “Pinky & the Brain,” the former a mindless lacky and the latter a genius doomed to failure thanks to his own over-confidence.

Each episode started with the pair escaping their cages and carrying out a plan to rule the planet, and ended with them back behind bars. “What’ll we do tomorrow?” Pinky asked. “Same thing we do every day,” Brain replied. “Try to take over the world.”

Cocky and Shameless would be an equally funny couple …

If they weren’t real.

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