Plenty of candidate interest in Traffic Court, which may be abolished

Philadelphia Traffic Court at Eighth and Spring Garden Streets was in session Thursday, but some of the judges hearing cases were from out of town. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

Philadelphia's Traffic Court may be nearing extinction but that hasn't deterred interest in three open seats.  As of 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, the first day to start circulating nominating petitions to get on the May 21 primary ballot, 45 potential candidates had picked up petitions at the Philadelphia City Commission offices in City Hall.

The state Senate last week voted to abolish Traffic Court after all but one of the judges there were indicted in a federal investigation into ticket fixing as political favors.  That means this could be the last election year for Traffic Court judges. 

State Sen. Dominic Pileggi, a Delaware County Republican and the Senate's majority leader, introduced one bill that would eliminate the three open Traffic Court seats. Another Pileggi bill deletes Traffic Court from the state Constitution.  Both bills were approved by the Senate last week. The legislation moves traffic cases to Philadelphia's Municipal Court, where they would be heard by hearing examiners.

The bill to change the Constitution, because it requires approval in two legislative sessions and then approval of voters in a statewide ballot, can't take effect until May 2015 at the earliest.  The bill to eliminate the three Traffic Court seats would take effect as soon as the state House approves it and the governor signs it into law.  Traffic Court judges do not have to be attorneys. They are paid $91,052 per year.