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NEWS
June 18, 2014 | By Jeremy Roebuck, Inquirer Staff Writer
Called before a grand jury two years ago, Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Michael Lowry testified that when it came to his rulings, everyone was treated "pretty much the same. " On Monday, his lawyer set out to prove it. As the federal ticket-fixing trial of Lowry and five other former judges resumed after a weeklong break, attorney William DeStefano accused FBI agents of focusing their investigation too narrowly and ignoring evidence that backed Lowry's claims. Brandishing statistical analysis of a day in his client's courtroom, DeStefano argued that at least one case singled out by prosecutors as an example of special treatment was anything but. The ticket-holder ended up with the day's worst outcome - a bigger fine than anyone else that day, he said.
NEWS
June 15, 2014 | By Jeremy Roebuck, Inquirer Staff Writer
A former Pennsylvania attorney general, an ex-lawyer for the Philadelphia School District, and the president of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute all made the list Friday as President Obama nominated four candidates for spots on the federal bench. If confirmed, the nominees, none of whom has judicial experience, will fill four of the five current vacancies in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which covers the Philadelphia region. "I am honored to put forward these highly qualified candidates," the president said in a statement.
NEWS
June 13, 2014 | BY JOHN F. MORRISON, Daily News Staff Writer morrisj@phillynews.com, 215-854-5573
GRACE FERRARA knew there was something dangerously wrong with her son. At the age of 3, Anthony could barely walk. She carried him from doctor to doctor, but none could help him as his condition worsened to near paralysis. She would wheel him around in a child's wagon. One day, after another fruitless doctor's visit, she broke down in an elevator in a medical building and began to sob. A man asked her what was wrong. When she told him, he asked to look at Anthony, then gave her a card to Shriners Hospital for Children and a doctor named John Royal Moore.
NEWS
June 13, 2014 | BY PATRICIA MADEJ, Daily News Staff Writer madejp@phillynews.com, 215-854-5938
THE PHILADELPHIA Court of Common Pleas wants to keep offenders from returning to the courtroom. To that end, the court system in April introduced a pilot re-entry program called MENTOR, or Mentors Empowering Now to Overcome Recidivism. The program, started by Common Pleas Judge Michael Erdos, matches civilian volunteers, or mentors, with "participants" who have pleaded guilty, in hopes of guiding them toward successful re-entry into society. Successful participants would have a significant amount of probation time taken off their sentences - typically a year.
NEWS
June 11, 2014 | By Alfred Lubrano, Inquirer Staff Writer
  Pennsylvania has more inmates convicted as juveniles for murder and sentenced to life without parole than any other place in the world. That distinction was reinforced Monday by a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The high court declined to hear an appeal by juvenile-justice advocates to revisit the sentences of those prisoners. "We are obviously disappointed," said Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel of the Juvenile Law Center, a national, nonprofit, public-interest law firm for children, based in Center City.
NEWS
June 6, 2014 | By Joseph A. Slobodzian, Inquirer Staff Writer
They're from different parts of the city and had nothing in common - except for their predawn Wednesday wake-up call: court warrant officers arresting them for failing to appear for jury duty. Actually, it was more than that. Not only did they ignore at least two calls for jury duty, they ignored a summons telling them to appear in court May 21 or be held in contempt. Yes, we're talking about scofflaws in Philadelphia's new Juror Scofflaw Court. Two of the three - Timothy Shissler, 42, of Frankford, and John Sparks, 56, of Brewerytown - pleaded guilty before unsmiling Common Pleas Court Judges John W. Herron and Jeffrey P. Minehart.
NEWS
June 6, 2014 | By Jeremy Roebuck, Inquirer Staff Writer
The well-oiled ticket-fixing machinery of Philadelphia Traffic Court worked so well, federal prosecutors sought to show Wednesday, that sometimes a well-connected ticket holder never even had to ask for special treatment. Consider the case of Joseph Mauro, a West Chester man who told jurors that he never sought help fighting a citation he received nearly four years ago. Yet, apparently without his knowledge, an appeal was filed, a lawyer hired, a case in Common Pleas Court fought and won, and legal documents signed in his name - developments he said he knew nothing about until FBI agents showed up on his doorstep years later.
NEWS
June 4, 2014 | BY JULIE SHAW, Daily News Staff Writer shawj@phillynews.com, 215-854-2592
A WARD LEADER was among those who requested favorable treatment for someone else on a traffic ticket, a former assistant for an ex-judge in Philadelphia Traffic Court testified yesterday. Gloria McNasby, who was the "personal" for then-Traffic Court Judge Robert Mulgrew from 2008 to 2011, told a federal jury that ward leader William Dolbow had gone to see Mulgrew "several times" in the judge's chambers. "At one point, Mr. Dolbow did give me a name . . . on a piece of paper," she said.
NEWS
June 4, 2014 | By Jeremy Roebuck, Inquirer Staff Writer
  As the ticket-fixing trial of five former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges entered its fifth day Monday, lawyers for both sides grappled over what has become the central question of the case: What exactly did a request to a judge for "consideration" mean? Federal prosecutors allege the phrase, routinely bandied between judges and their personal assistants, served as a code word for seeking an outright dismissal of traffic tickets for friends, family and political allies.
NEWS
June 4, 2014 | By Jeremy Roebuck, Inquirer Staff Writer
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out the conviction of a Lansdale woman who tried to poison a romantic rival, ruling unanimously that federal prosecutors in Philadelphia overreacted by charging her under antiterrorism law. Though her lawyers called the decision a victory, it came too late for Carol Anne Bond, 42, who served six years in federal prison after pleading guilty to chemical weapons charges in 2007. In an opinion dripping with sarcasm, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. chided prosecutors in Philadelphia for equating "an amateur attempt by a jilted wife to injure her husband's lover" with an attack prohibited under a 1997 treaty banning chemical weapons.
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