Saturday, February 13, 2016

Pileggi moves to abolish Traffic Court

State Senate Republican leader says there's no reason for its continued existence, wants to turn duties over to Municipal Court.

Pileggi moves to abolish Traffic Court

Dominic Pileggi
Dominic Pileggi

The Republican leader of the state Senate, Dominic Pileggi, has prepared bills to abolish Philadelphia Traffic Court, after an investigation commissioned by the state’s chief justice found widespread ticket-fixing for people with the right connections.

“No other county has a separate Traffic Court, and there is no objective evidence that the continued existence of the Philadelphia Traffic Court would serve the public interest,” Pileggi said this week in a memo to his colleagues, soliciting co-sponsors for the legislation.  “Whatever reason may have existed in the past for Philadelphia to have a separate Traffic Court no longer exists.”

Pileggi ‘s memo said two bills would be necessary: one to eliminate references to Traffic Court in the state Constitution, the other to change the state’s Judicial Code to transfer  the court’s authority over alleged traffic violations to the Philadelphia Municipal Court.

“This bill will be drafted so that its provisions can take effect whether or not the constitutional amendment is finally approved,” Pileggi said.

The Traffic Court , located at 8th and Spring Garden streets, is already the subject of a federal investigation, which led to a series of FBI raids in September 2011. After the raids, the state Supreme Court’s chief justice, Ronald D. Castille, commissioned a Traffic Court investigation by attorney William G. Chadwick.

In a 35-page report issued in November, Chadwick described Traffic Court as having “two tracks of justice ­– one for the connected and another for the unwitting general public.” Four judges and 22 court employees had acknowledged widespread ticket-fixing in interviews, Chadwick said.

With the state Senate and state House both controlled by Republicans, solid GOP support could lead to speedy passage of Pileggi’s proposals, sending them to Gov. Corbett,  also a Republican.

Traffic Court now has seven authorized judgeships, with at least three vacancies scheduled to be filled in this year’s elections.  The positions do not require a law degree and pay $91,052 a year, according to Pileggi. In recent decades virtually all of the judgeships have been won by little-known candidates with ties to the Democratic Party.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer's Chris Hepp, Tricia Nadolny, Julia Terruso, and Claudia Vargas take you inside Philadelphia's City Hall.

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