Three Traffic Court seats, while endangered, still draw a crowd

Posted: March 14, 2013

IT HAS BEEN nearly six weeks since federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against nine current and former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges for allegedly fixing tickets as political favors.

It has been four weeks since the state Senate moved with unusual speed to unanimously approve legislation to abolish that court.

That all had little impact on the 39 dreamers - 37 Democrats, one Republican and one candidate who filed to run for both parties - who on Tuesday turned in nomination petitions for three vacant Traffic Court seats.

The candidates were required to submit at least 1,000 signatures from registered voters in the city to earn a spot on the ballot. The job pays $91,052 per year. Traffic Court judges do not have to be attorneys.

The state House's Judiciary Committee will hold a March 22 hearing in Philadelphia to consider two bills pushed by state Sen. Dominic Pileggi, a Delaware County Republican and the Senate majority leader. The first bill would eliminate the three vacant seats this year. The second would change the state Constitution to fold Traffic Court duties into the city's Municipal Court.

"We're optimistic the House will take up the bills to eliminate Traffic Court quickly," Pileggi spokesman Erik Arneson said. "The sooner the better, of course, since prompt action could eliminate the need for a potentially costly election that could prove to have no value in the end."

Marnie Aument-Loughery of Kensington is running for Traffic Court for a second time.

The daughter of a ward leader has done political work, but said that doesn't mean she's in the race for the wrong reasons.

"I'm not doing this because I'm just someone who might've seen in the paper that, wow, these guys can make a nice salary," said Aument-Loughery. "Whatever is going to happen will happen in the end. Right now people deserve to vote for someone who's fair."

One candidate, Donna DeRose, dates a ward leader mentioned in a report compiled for the state Supreme Court about people who sought "special consideration" in Traffic Court cases.

Another candidate, Fred Mari Jr., worked as a personal assistant for Traffic Court Administrative Judge Fortunato Perri Sr., one of the nine charged with crimes last month.

"I worked for the guy for almost seven years, and he was a man of integrity," Mari said Tuesday. "I never saw the guy do anything wrong, and that's a fact."

Also Tuesday, four candidates filed petitions to run statewide in primaries for one state Superior Court vacancy. That job pays $188,337 per year. Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Joseph Waters Jr. and Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Jack McVay Jr. are Democrats. Harrisburg attorney Vic Stabile and Bethel Park District Justice Robert Wyda are Republicans.

Six vacancies on Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas, which pays $173,271 per year, and three vacancies on the city's Municipal Court, which pays $169,261 per year, drew heavy interest.

Thirty-six candidates filed for the Common Pleas seats, including 34 Democrats and two who filed for both parties.

Twenty-one candidates filed for Municipal Court, including 19 Democrats, one Republican and one who filed for both parties.

Twenty of the candidates filed to run for both Common Pleas and Municipal Court seats.

A Department of State list of candidates can be found

" @ChrisBrennanDN


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