The state Senate voted unanimously today to abolish the Philadelphia Traffic Court, just weeks after nine of its former and current judges were charged in a sweeping federal probe into ticket-fixing.
The chamber passed two separate bills – one that would eliminate the court from the state constitution and another that would transfer its responsibilities to Philadelphia Municipal Court.
“After the most recent round of indictments, the situation in Philadelphia Traffic Court is so bad that only one judge out of seven is still serving on the court,” said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), the bills’ prime sponsor. “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.”
Pileggi noted that no other county in Pennsylvania has a separate traffic court, and that his chamber estimates that eliminating Philadelphia’s could save up to $650,000 a year.
Late last month, nine traffic court judges were charged with dismissing or reducing citations for friends, family, business associates and political allies. Two judges - Kenneth Miller, 76, of Brookhaven, and H. Warren Hogeland, 75, of Richboro – pleaded guilty in the case earlier this week.
Still, City Hall bureau reporter Bob Warner reports that the court’s uncertain future apparently has not deterred potential candidates for Traffic Court judge.
Three judgeships are now vacant -- not counting three more spots where the judges are suspended because of federal indictments – and so far, 25 different individuals have picked up nominating petitions to be candidates in the May 21 primary, according to Timothy Dowling, acting supervisor of elections in the city commissioners’ office.
All it takes to run is 1,000 signatures from registered Philadelphia voters – no educational degrees or license to practice law required. Candidates will have three weeks to circulate their petitions, from Feb. 19 through March 12.
Click here for Philly.com's politics page.