- Associated Press - Thursday, August 7, 2014

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) - One of the main figures in a northeastern Pennsylvania juvenile justice scandal could share up to $200 million his law firm is owed in an unrelated environmental contamination lawsuit, court documents show.

Robert Powell’s law firm represented plaintiffs from the town of Avoca, where Kerr-McGee Corp. operated a creosote plant. Kerr-McGee’s successor company, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., reached a $5.15 billion settlement in April for the cleanup of thousands of contaminated sites nationwide.

Powell, the former co-owner of two for-profit youth detention centers, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his role in a kickbacks scheme that led the state Supreme Court to vacate the convictions of thousands of juveniles who appeared before a now-jailed state judge.

Gregory Zappala, Powell’s former business partner in the youth detention centers, is suing Powell over the kids-for-cash scandal and said in court documents that Powell’s firm is set to receive $150 million to $200 million for its work on the environmental case.

Zappala, who was not implicated in the scandal, wants a federal judge to freeze those attorneys’ fees. He said Powell, who has been disbarred, and his former law partner used money from the juvenile detention centers to bankroll the environmental litigation. A judge will consider Zappala’s request at an Aug. 22 hearing in Pittsburgh.

An attorney for Powell did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Thursday.

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