Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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Plan to abolish Traffic Court draws mixed reactions

Following Republican state Sen. Dominic Pileggi's proposal on Friday that Harrisburg abolish Philadelphia’s controversy-plagued Traffic Court, reaction from across the aisle has ranged from the tepid to the tempestuous.

Plan to abolish Traffic Court draws mixed reactions

Following Republican state Sen. Dominic Pileggi's proposal on Friday that Harrisburg abolish Philadelphia’s controversy-plagued Traffic Court, reaction from across the aisle has ranged from the tepid to the tempestuous.

Speaking for the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee, Lou Farinella Jr. said abolishing the court wouldn’t solve any problems.

“They talk about political corruption. How the hell did they get their jobs? How did Pileggi get elected? Did he fall off a rock? People voted him in just like people vote in Traffic Court judges,” Farinella said. “I hate to sound political but I think the Republicans are just on a witch hunt in Philadelphia County.”

The committee’s chairman, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D-Phila.), was listed in the investigation as one of the “frequent requesters of special consideration.” Farinella said none of the allegations have been proven to be true.

Democratic state Sen. Shirley Kitchen, of North Philadelphia, said she agrees the Traffic Court needs reform but will have to see more evidence before taking a stance on Pileggi’s proposal.

“We just have to make sure that this is an improvement and make sure they’re not just being pushed from one system to another,” she said. “This is a big city, so you couldn’t just include the Traffic Court into the systems we already have and not expect it to have some kind of effect on the speediness of a trial and the personnel.”

For Pileggi, the No. 2 Senate Republican, the issue is cut-and-dry.

“The lack of integrity at Philadelphia Traffic Court has been demonstrated time after time,” Pileggi said in a statement. “There is no objective evidence that the continued existence of the Philadelphia Traffic Court would serve the public interest.”

On Friday, the Chester County senator announced plans to introduce two measures: a state constitutional amendment to get rid of the court, and a bill that would transfer its duties to municipal courts — as is done in all other Pennsylvania counties.

The Traffic Court, at 8th and Spring Garden streets, has been under siege since a November report detailed how politicians often requested and received favors from Traffic Court judges. The investigation was ordered by the First Judicial District, which manages Philly’s courts, after word spread of an FBI probe into Traffic Court.

Administrative Judge Gary Glazer, appointed in late 2011 to oversee Traffic Court, said he and the First Judicial District “fully support” Pileggi’s efforts.

“The history of that court shows that there has been, since its inception, access granted and favors given on the basis of political contacts,” he said.

Attempts to contact Traffic Court judges Friday were unsuccessful.

Contact staff writer Sean Collins Walsh at 215-854-4172 or walshSE@phillynews.com.

About this blog
Chris Brennan, a native Philadelphian and graduate of Temple University, joined the Daily News in 1999. He has written about SEPTA, the Philadelphia School District, the legalization of casino gambling, state government, the mayor, the governor, City Council and political campaigns. E-mail tips to brennac@phillynews.com
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Jenny DeHuff is a 2005 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she cut her teeth in journalism. A South Philly transplant from New England, she joined the Daily News City Hall Bureau in 2013. For the past several years, she has worked as an investigative reporter exposing corruption in suburban politics, covering sometimes ghastly criminal court cases and following the people’s money and how its spent. In addition to being a dogged news hound, she enjoys reading and writing about travel, animals, Irish whiskey and aviation. E-mail tips to dehuffj@phillynews.com
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Sean Collins Walsh is from Bucks County and went to Northwestern University. He joined the Daily News copy desk in 2012 and now covers the Nutter administration. Before that, he interned at papers including The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News and The Seattle Times. E-mail tips to walshSE@phillynews.com
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