At the end of the week, it wasn't clear whether chief clerk Royal D. Hart, who was at his desk Friday, was fired or rehired.
And that reflects how things have been at the patronage-staffed Traffic Court for the last five years - a place where no one can be quite sure what's what and who's in charge.
Variously under the control of a citizens committee, a panel of Supreme Court justices, a state administrative agency and a private computer contractor, Traffic Court has been in a managerial morass since 1985.
But that, it might be argued, has been an improvement over the way things used to be.
Traffic Court used to be simply corrupt.
For those unfamiliar with its colorful history, the court for years was home to bribery and ticket-fixing scandals.
In 1978, the court's president judge, Louis Vignola, a South Philadelphia Democrat, was convicted of bribery in U.S. District Court.
Five years later, during the tenure of President Judge Salvatore DeMeo, a former Republican ward leader, another scandal unfolded.
That one led to the convictions of 15 people, including DeMeo's son Dominic, for ticket-fixing.
After that scandal, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert N.C. Nix Jr. named a 13-member Traffic Court reform committee headed by Roger S. Hillas, chairman of Provident National Bank.
The committee in 1985 named Royal Hart, a former Beaver County detective, prison warden and investigator for the state Judicial Inquiry and Review Board, to the post of chief clerk. Hart's mandate was to clean up Traffic Court, home to patronage employees of the Democratic and Republican Parties, and oversee its daily operations.
The committee that named him soon went out of existence, and a panel of three Supreme Court justices took over supervision of Traffic Court in 1986 while Hart remained chief clerk.
The following year, Nix relieved the three justices of their watchdog duties and put Traffic Court in the hands of Hart and the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC), a Supreme Court agency.
The AOPC in 1989 hired a private contractor, American Management Systems Inc. (AMS) of Arlington, Va., to handle most of the court's administrative operations.
Then in September 1989, the Supreme Court announced the restoration of power to the president judge, Twardy. Hart remained chief clerk.
But the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and its contractor, AMS, retained jurisdiction over most administrative and computer operations of the court.
Twardy last year sharply criticized the managerial arrangement, saying that under the AOPC and AMS the revenues from fine collections had fallen so low that Traffic Court no longer was able to pay for its operations.
After a struggle to wrest back control, Twardy, a Republican whose term as president judge expires in December, last month announced that a new contractor, Lockheed Information Management Services Co., a subsidiary of Lockheed Aircraft, had been hired to take over computer operations from AMS.
No sooner had that happened than Justice Papadakos, named by the Supreme Court to carry out budget cuts in the Philadelphia courts, announced that he wanted Traffic Court to cut 100 of its 200-plus employees.
Twardy responded Tuesday by firing Hart from his $76,000-a-year job. He said he wanted to "start at the top."
But that was not quite what Papadakos had in mind. Immediately, he ordered that Hart be rehired.
Twardy refused and said he would not rescind the firing unless ordered to do so by the full seven-member Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Nix, a Hart backer, responded in a letter Thursday telling Twardy he was "expected" to comply with Papadakos' directives.
But Twardy said that wasn't good enough - he wanted to hear from the ''whole court."
As of Friday, the whole court had not spoken.
Hart was in his office, at the direction of Papadakos.
But Twardy said he had sent notice to the city to take Hart off the payroll.
While chaos reigned at the top, most Traffic Court employees were going to work and doing their jobs just like other folks.
"It's a real interesting experience," said one court employee Friday with a sigh.