Fourteen of the 16 candidates for Luzerne County judge contributed to prior candidates for county judge between 2001 and 2009, according to a review of campaign finance reports.
Eight of the candidates contributed to the 2005 campaign to retain Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. as judge. Eight contributed to Michael T. Toole's 2003 campaign for judge.
In February, a jury found Ciavarella guilty of racketeering and other charges. On Friday, Toole was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for accepting illegal gratuities from an attorney who won a favorable ruling in his court and failing to report income on a federal tax return.
"The indictments have changed the attitudes," said Vito DeLuca, a candidate in May 17 primary election and the Luzerne County solicitor. "Lawyers won't be as concerned if they give a contribution that they will be punished somehow. Everyone is watching what the judges are doing now."
Federal authorities in January 2009 announced the charges against Ciavarella and former Judge Michael T. Conahan, who has pleaded guilty. Ciavarella and Conahan were accused of pocketing $2.8 million in kickbacks from backers of a for-profit juvenile detention center, and Toole was charged with unrelated crimes later in 2009.
"From my perspective, I think things were different years ago than they are now," DeLuca said. "As a younger lawyer, you get an invitation to judge's cocktail party for retention, you may have felt a certain obligation, and you buy a ticket to an event."
DeLuca contributed a total of $1,500 to seven county judge campaigns since 2001.
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Judicial Candidates no Strangers to Donations