John Baer | In a dinky courtroom: Baloney, sucking up &, maybe, a city's fate

SOME OF the circus of the mayor's race hit a dinky courtroom in the Capitol Complex yesterday as round two of "Let's Bounce Bob Brady Off the Ballot" played out in Commonwealth Court.

To give you an idea of what this court normally handles, the case just before Brady's was a fight over which school district a couple of kids can attend based on where they sometimes live and, I swear, where their cat lives. (You can't make this stuff up.)

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Whether Bob Brady can run in the primary election could be decided today.

Each side in that case got eight minutes - "the rules," according to Judge Dante Pellegrini, one of a three-judge panel.

But when it came to Brady, "the rules" (and decorum) went out the window: It took more than an hour, one side said the other makes stuff up, a lawyer sought to suck up to a judge, there was reference to a past witness "who didn't know squat" and it ended with pleas to be over.

It was a replay of the Cozen/Rosen show, as in Brady attorney Steve Cozen vs. anti-Brady (and Tom Knox guy) attorney Paul Rosen.

Neither Brady nor Knox attended.

Both lawyers drew judicial rebuffs: Rosen for arriving late, Cozen for interrupting a judge.

"Sorry for interrupting," Cozen said, to which Judge Pellegrini fired back, "If

you're sorry, maybe you shouldn't do it."

Arguments before Pellegrini, Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer (yes, the wife of former Sen. Bob Jubelirer) and Senior Judge James R. Kelley, a former Democratic state senator from western Pennsylvania, were animated.

At stake is whether a March 27 lower-court ruling allowing Brady to stay on the May 15 primary ballot stands.

That ruling says it's OK that Brady didn't disclose income from a city pension because such income is "governmentally mandated" and exempt from disclosure. And it says that although Brady failed to disclose $13,000-plus in carpenters' union payments to a pension annuity - payments the court called income that had to be disclosed - Brady can amend his filing and remain a candidate.

Pellegrini yesterday, more than once, called such payments "troubling."

But Brady's camp says the payments aren't "income" since Brady didn't get anything. It's not income and it's not pension, argued Cozen, so it doesn't have to be divulged.

"You have to call it something," said Pellegrini. "It's troubling."

The money is the minimum amount the union can put aside to maintain Brady's pension continuity. In exchange, Brady, a former carpenter, is an on-call consultant to the union.

Judge Jubelirer suggested that giving Brady additional years enhances his pension and is therefore something of value.

Yes, said Cozen, but the question is "value when?" He said the financial-disclosure requirement only calls for income in 2006.

Knox's camp says the law's the law, disclosure's required and Brady should be bumped. Rosen said not disclosing is deceiving the public.

Rosen also said that although courts are "biased in favor of leaving people on the ballot," this court should "apply the law based on the facts."

Cozen said Rosen's facts are wrong, then went the suck-up route. He cited an opinion by Judge Kelley earlier this week dismissing another ballot challenge: "I was very impressed with what you said."

Unclear whether he got points.

As the hearing was ending, Rosen quoted the late Justice Louis Brandeis, saying disclosure prevents corruption and calling "sunlight" the best disinfectant. Cozen accused him of playing to the media and tried to further argue his case as Pellegrini repeatedly called out,

"We're done!"

Afterward, I asked Rosen whether any court is likely to toss Brady and affect the outcome of an election in the state's largest city.

"The law should be applied evenly," he said. "If it wasn't Bob Brady, it would have been over a long time ago."

But Cozen, while leaving, called out to reporters, "Don't listen to that guy, he's full of baloney."

We'll see. An order could come as soon as today. *

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