Senate Unanimously Approves Baker Bill to Bring Reforms to Juvenile Justice Courts

(HARRISBURG) — Legislation aimed at preventing further cases of corruption in county juvenile courts has been unanimously approved by the state Senate according to Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20), who sponsored the measure.

“With so many kids adversely affected, with such casual denial of fundamental constitutional protections, the Luzerne County situation cannot just be written off as a horrible aberration,” Baker said. “We cannot run the risk that greed, intimidation, callous disregard of ethics and oaths, and criminal audacity combine to allow this to happen again.”

Baker’s measure would establish an 11-member Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, appointed by the Chief Justice, General Assembly and Governor, to conduct a thorough review of juvenile justice procedures, practices, rules and regulations and pursue remedies and reforms. The goal, she said, is to ensure that children and families who enter the juvenile justice system are granted fundamental constitutional protections and that judges are monitored to make sure their decisions are ethical and correct.

Baker said the commission is the result of strong cooperation among all three branches of state government and will not interfere with or duplicate the work of investigators and the criminal justice system. Rather, it is charged with finding forward-looking remedies for the wrongs, and restoring public confidence that there is justice throughout the juvenile justice system.

“To the extent that laws must be changed, rules revised, proceedings opened up, data more carefully scrutinized, this commission will put together that case. Legislators will then decide on changes in law. The courts will decide on rules changes,” Baker said. “By virtue of how this commission was conceived and how it will be constituted, we can trust that the end result will be reliable, responsible, and right – a better-protected, better-run system of juvenile justice.”

Floor Remarks (PDF)

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