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.