When will the Traffic Court judges get their day in court? Probably not for a while.
Recent filings in the ticket-fixing case against six former or current judges on Philadelphia's beleaguered and soon-to-be dismantled Traffic Court suggest the case won't come to trial until sometime next year.
U.S. District Judge Robert F. Kelly had set a Nov. 12 trial date for the defendants, who face fraud and other charges for allegedly fixing tickets of friends and political associates.
But earlier this month, former Judge Robert Mulgrew asked the judge for more time to prepare. In her Aug. 9 motion, Mulgrew's lawyer, Angela Halim, pointed out the mountain of evidence collected by the government in its nearly three-year probe: more than 20,000 intercepted phone calls, 50 grand jury transcripts, hundreds FBI agent reports, hundreds of traffic citations, and other financial and computer information.
By mid-summer, Halim's motion said, the government had turned over "approximately 16,530 pages of documents and 26,789 recorded telephone calls" -- and it wasn't done yet.
In the weeks since, four of the five other judges or former judges awaiting trial have filed papers asking to join Mulgrew's request for a continuance, as have the three non-judges in the case. The only defendant who hasn't is former judge Thomasine Tynes. (Three other former judges have already pleaded guilty to charges in the case.)
On Wednesday, prosecutors weighed in on the request for more time -- and didn't object with any gusto.
"While the government would prefer to try this case on the scheduled date of Nov. 12, 2013, it understands how the quantity of evidence in this case leads the defense to request a continuance," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Denise Wolf and Anthony Wzorek wrote in a letter to the judge.
If Kelly is inclined to postpone it, the prosecutors told him, the earliest they could try the case would be May 19, 2014. Either way, they asked the judge to decide quickly.
At this rate, it seems all but certain the court will be gone by the time jurors begin to hear how it once operated. Gov. Corbett signed a bill in June abolishing the onetime scourge of Philadelphia drivers, and transferring its duties to Municipal Court.