Traffic Court judges don't have to be lawyers, but the Supreme Court could make the test that applicants take to become judges so difficult that only someone with a strong knowledge of the law could pass.
For lasting reform, the court should institutionalize ethics training, set up a complaint hotline so corrupt practices can be reported to law enforcement, and insist on constant oversight to end the culture of favors for the families and friends of politicians and court employees.
Perhaps the court is silent because of the embarrassment to Justice Seamus McCaffery, who the report said met with a court official to discuss a ticket his wife received, which was dismissed. The stakes are too high to let that stop the high court. If McCaffery wants to deflect suspicion, he should lead the reform charge.
The report said McCaffery told investigators he was only trying to make sure a judge from outside of Philadelphia would hear his wife's case to avoid any conflict of interest. But he was elected statewide, so, by his reasoning, any judge in Pennsylvania might have a conflict. Besides, McCaffery knows full well that requests for recusal are made in courthouses, not a parking area.
The FBI, which raided Traffic Court in September 2011, is conducting a criminal investigation. That may ultimately solve some of the court's problems by punishing those who have put their own political ambitions ahead of the public's right to fair treatment.
But it's not the FBI's job to reform Traffic Court; it's the Supreme Court's. That deliberative body need not act in haste, but three weeks is plenty of time to reassure the public that the report won't just gather dust. It may be too early for specific recommendations, but not to say changes will be made. The court's silence further erodes confidence in Pennsylvania's judicial system.