State Senate votes to abolish Traffic Court in Philly

Retired Traffic Court Judge Warren Hogeland leaves the U.S Courthouse in Philadelphia on Tuesday, February 12, 2013. Judge Hogeland plead guilty to ticket fixing. ( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )

The state Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to abolish Philadelphia Traffic Court, two weeks after all but one of the judges there were charged with federal crimes in a sweeping investigation into ticket-fixing as political favors.  Two bills, introduced by state Sen. Dominic Pileggi, a Delaware County Republican and Senate majority leader, now go to the state House for consideration.

Pileggi's first bill would change the state Constitution to eliminate the court. That must be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions and then be put to a statewide vote. The earliest that all could happen is May 2015.

The second bill sends traffic cases to Municipal Court. Anyone already elected to Traffic Court, which pays $91,052 per year, would move to Municipal Court as a hearing examiner. That job, going forward, would be appointed by the president judge of Municipal Court.

Two of the judges charged two weeks ago, Kenneth Miller of Delaware County and H. Warren Hogeland of Bucks County, pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday.  Both had been district justices in their home counties and started hearing Philadelphia Traffic Court cases when they became senior judges. 

Seven other current or former Traffic Court judges, including former administrative judges Fortunato Perri Sr. and Michael Sullivan, were also charged.

"After the most recent round of indictments, the situation is Philadelphia Traffic Court is so bad that only one judge out of seven is still serving on the court," Pileggi said after Wednesday's vote. "There is no good reason for taxpayers to continue footing the bill for a court that is unnecessary and has become an embarrassment to the state's judicial system."

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