A state judge who was appointed to oversee the troubled traffic court of Philadelphia was testifying in front of a Pa. legislative committee last Friday. He witnessed the nine present and past judges indicted during the ticket-fixing scandal are throwing his support of the two bills that would disassemble the system.
It will be recalled that JTop of FormIt willudge Gary S. Glazer was appointed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania last December 2011 to manage the Traffic Court of Philadelphia as the corruption charges was escalating. He told Reps of the House in the Judiciary Committee that the pervasive culture of corruption has already seeped in so deeply that in order to rectify the damage; the whole system has to be overhauled.
Judge Glazer of Pa. Common Pleas County Court said that he loves Philadelphia although he is not a native of the city but it is now his adopted town. But he is greatly troubled by the long-standing attitude of corruption happening in the traffic court. He sees ahead hard work in dismantling the system and doing away with the corrupted practices.
The committee is planning to have SB333, which would require amend the state’s constitution so that the Philadelphia Traffic Court could be eliminated and the plan by SB334 aimed to transfer the court’s responsibilities to Philadelphia Municipal Court. Last February, the bill was approved unanimously by the Pennsylvania Senate.
R-Delaware Sen. Dominic Pileggi introduced the legislation in the midst of the in federal indictments that left only one judge doing the job of seven.
The indictments included not only the judges, but also a former director of records for the court, and two businessmen. The fraud was discovered to be a long-running practice of fixing tickets for politically connected individuals, as well as friends, and family members.
Those who are elected as Philadelphia Traffic Court judges are not required to have any legal background but they undergo training on the state’s motor vehicle laws.
Chair Kathleen Wilkinson of the Philadelphia Bar Association said that she and her group believed that any hearing officers should have formal legal training. She continued that this is essential since all traffic court must follow all laws and apply the legal measures properly and fairly. For the Association, this is the best reason why judges handling traffic cases must be lawyers who are certified to practice in Pennsylvania and in good standing.
Philadelphia’s House delegates supported alternative measure that was sponsored by D-Philadelphia Rep. Curtis Thomas, who earlier in March proposed to save the current structure of Philadelphia Traffic Court by proposing to install a president judge and a group of six court masters to root out any new corruption.
D-Philly Rep. Ronald Waters told the committee dismantling the court now would not be a good move; he proposed that instead of its abolition, they think of ways and means to improve the court. They should place protection nets and put to guarantee that future scams are not repeated.
There was no action on the bill presented at the closing of the week but R-Dauphin Rep. Ron Marisco said that votation is bound to happen in a little while. SB334 would start processing the turn-over of traffic court’s duties to the Philadelphia Municipal Court. If the Traffic Court would really be abolished, they would require a bill changing the constitution for it needs approval by the 2015-2016 legislative sessions of the General Assembly prior recommending the bill to referendum.
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