HARRISBURG – Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9) will introduce legislation to eliminate the Philadelphia Traffic Court, citing an investigative report by the state Supreme Court which concluded that the court has “two tracks of justice – one for the connected and another for the unwitting general public.”
“There is no objective evidence that the continued existence of the Philadelphia Traffic Court would serve the public interest,” Senator Pileggi said. “No other county has a separate Traffic Court, and whatever reason may have existed in the past for Philadelphia to have a separate Traffic Court no longer exists.”
According to the 35-page report commissioned by the Supreme Court, Traffic Court judges “routinely made, accepted and granted third-party requests for preferential treatment for politically connected individuals.”
The full report is available online as a PDF file at http://media.philly.com/documents/trafficcourtstudy.pdf.
“The lack of integrity at Philadelphia Traffic Court has been demonstrated time after time,” Senator Pileggi said. “In 1997, the court was described as ‘Philadelphia’s judicial backwater’ and ‘a safe place to stash party hacks, generate patronage jobs and fix tickets or throw out cases to earn favors.’ In 1991, thousands of cases were heard by unauthorized judges. Experience proves that in order to clean up this court, we must eliminate it.”
According to numerous media reports, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Traffic Court offices and judges’ homes in 2011 and is conducting an ongoing criminal investigation.
Senator Pileggi will introduce a two-bill package to eliminate the Philadelphia Traffic Court. One bill will amend the state constitution to eliminate the Philadelphia Traffic Court, and the other will transfer the responsibilities of the Philadelphia Traffic Court to the Philadelphia Municipal Court. The second bill will be drafted so that its provisions can take effect whether or not the constitutional amendment is finally approved.
Philadelphia currently has a total of 122 judges, including 7 Traffic Court judges, who are not required to be attorneys and have a salary of $91,052 each; 25 Municipal Court judges, each paid $169,261; and 90 Common Pleas Court judges, each paid $173,271.