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Traffic Court

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NEWS
January 16, 2013
AT LAST, someone has come up with a good idea about what to do with Philadelphia's scandal-ridden Traffic Court: Get rid of it. Sen. Dominic Pileggi, Republican leader of the state Senate, said he is working on legislation to abolish Traffic Court and shift its duties to Municipal Court. Pileggi said he was prompted to act because of an ongoing FBI investigation into corruption at the court and because of a report, done for the state Supreme Court by investigator William Chadwick, that revealed widespread fixing of cases based on politics.
NEWS
November 29, 2012
The recommendations for change found in a scathing report of Philadelphia's Traffic Court omit one reform that would make the most sense: change the name of Traffic Court to Traffic Carnival, and start calling the "judges" who preside "carnies. " That may sound harsh, but consider the performance of this court, documented by a 35-page report by Chadwick Associates done at the behest of Supreme Court Justice Ron Castille, where the rampant practice of fixing tickets created, in the words of the report, a "two-track system of justice, one of the politically connected and another for the unwitting general public . . . " Or, as we like to call them, "shills" and "marks.
NEWS
July 30, 1991 | by Mark McDonald, Daily News Staff Writer
They looked like judges, they sounded like judges, and they were sitting on the Traffic Court bench in black robes. And so, on the basis of a legal principle known as the "de facto doctrine," the state Supreme Court and lawyers for its administrative office have decided to let stand Philadelphia traffic cases against almost 1,700 motorists. The judges in question were retired, or "senior," judges, but they did not have legal authority from the Supreme Court when they heard the Traffic Court cases in May. The decision to let the cases stand is in sharp contrast to the high court's actions in May, when the snafu came to light.
NEWS
May 31, 1991 | by Mark McDonald, Daily News Staff Writer
Thousands of Traffic Court decisions are being thrown out because President Judge George Twardy - disobeying a state Supreme Court order - permitted retired judges to hear cases even though they had no power to do so. "What Twardy has done is crazy if not criminal," an angry state Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Papadakdos said of this latest Traffic Court embarrassment. "What he did is like pulling four people straight off the street and saying, 'Here, you decide these cases,' " Papadakos said.
NEWS
May 14, 1997
Traffic Court is Philadelphia's judicial backwater. A safe place to stash party hacks, generate patronage jobs and fix tickets or throw out cases to earn favors. This practice - by both parties - has had a corrosive effect. The Daily News series "Hell on Wheels," in February, spelled it out: 61 percent of traffic tickets are ignored; the court has a backlog of $335 million in unpaid tickets. Violators ignore tickets and court appearances because there's no way to compel them to pay. Police, frustrated by the court's incompetence, have curtailed enforcement.
NEWS
November 3, 2007
It would be a moving violation of sorts to walk into a polling place on Tuesday and cast a vote for Willie Singletary. Singletary, 26, a pastor in Southwest Philadelphia, is a Democratic nominee for city Traffic Court. And while Singletary is intimately familiar with Traffic Court, it's from the wrong side of the bench. A motorcycle enthusiast, Singletary has managed to get his license suspended through 2011. At one point he owed the court more than $11,000 for 55 violations, including reckless driving, driving without a license, and driving without insurance.
NEWS
January 19, 1991 | By Mark McDonald, Daily News Staff Writer
After a frequently stormy 2 1/2-hour meeting yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Nicholas P. Papadakos and Traffic Court President Judge George Twardy emerged with a scaled-down estimate for reducing the Traffic Court budget. Papadakos, who earlier this week trimmed the Municipal Court budget by $1 million, said that the minimum budget cut for Traffic Court will be the equivalent of 50 positions, about $1.5 million. That's about half of what Papadakos last week estimated he could cut from Traffic Court.
NEWS
July 18, 1991 | by Mark McDonald, Daily News Staff Writer
Joseph C. Hartdegen, a former Traffic Court security guard, has been arrested in connection with a ticket-fixing scheme. Police spokesman Ed Tenuto said Hartdegen, 24, was arrested Monday afternoon after the district attorney's office approved the warrant. Hartdegen was charged with theft, attempted theft, tampering with public records, tampering with evidence, and impersonating a public servant. Court sources said the investigation centers on tickets from each police district that were gathered in locked canvas bags and stored in a hallway outside the police office in Traffic Court.
NEWS
February 29, 2012 | By Nathan Gorenstein, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary, suspended for allegedly showing a camera phone photo of his genitals to an employee, has submitted his resignation. Court of Common Pleas Judge Gary S. Glazer, the acting administrative judge of Traffic Court, said Singletary submitted his resignation by iPhone. However, Glazer said that under state law a judge must resign directly to the governor, which means Singletary will have to resubmit his resignation to Gov. Corbett for it to take effect.
NEWS
December 18, 1986 | By Henry Goldman, Inquirer Staff Writer
In the last days of his administration, Gov. Thornburgh has considered naming a Republican to a full five-year term as president judge of Philadelphia's problem-plagued Traffic Court, court sources said yesterday. The sources said that the governor has been weighing whether to appoint George Twardy, 58, a former bail bondsman and city magistrate who has been a Traffic Court judge since 1971. He would replace President Judge Salvatore DeMeo, who has been serving without a fixed term at the governor's pleasure.
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ARTICLES BY DATE
NEWS
June 25, 2015 | By Jeremy Roebuck, Inquirer Staff Writer
Edward J. Hanko, the FBI's top agent in Philadelphia, will retire next month after a 29-year career with the bureau, he announced to agents Tuesday. The Wilkes-Barre native has led the Philadelphia division - the bureau's eighth-largest office - since 2013, and oversaw an investigative force with an expanded focus on counterterrorism, cyber crime and public corruption probes. In an e-mail to colleagues, Hanko, 55, said he had accepted a position as "vice president [for] global security for a Fortune 500 company" and would leave his current post July 31 - two years short of the FBI's mandatory retirement age. Hanko did not respond to calls for comment Tuesday about his future position or his retirement, which had not been officially announced by the bureau.
NEWS
May 21, 2015 | BY WILLIAM BENDER, Daily News Staff Writer benderw@phillynews.com, 215-854-5255
YEAH, WE KNOW you haven't been following the Common Pleas and Municipal Court races, so we'll keep this brief. A bunch of Philadelphia lawyers whom you've probably never heard of were nominated yesterday to 15 judgeships based on a combination of ballot position, hefty payoffs to Democratic operatives and, perhaps, the ethnicities of their last names. History has shown that many of these lawyers will nonetheless become good judges, while others may fall short - or worse, like get arrested.
NEWS
May 11, 2015 | Inquirer Editorial Board
Despite a remarkable run of scandal that deprived the state's highest court of two justices in as many years and its lowest (the late Philadelphia Traffic Court) of existence, Pennsylvania lawmakers have maintained a preternatural serenity about the condition of the state's judiciary - so much so that its ranks are being refilled by the same quasi-democratic lottery that got us in this mess. Of course, the low-interest elections that fill the state's benches do produce some good judges, but only by accident.
NEWS
May 6, 2015 | Inquirer Editorial Board
Much of the intense interest in New Jersey's most famous traffic jam - no minor distinction in a state that specializes in gridlock - revolves around what Gov. Christie knew, when he knew it, and whether it might end his long-dreamt-of leadership of the free world before it begins. These are legitimate questions, but they threaten to distract from the enormity of the event itself: a raw abuse of government power in the service of the pettiest politics. Last week's guilty plea and indictments of three former Christie administration officials affirmed in stark detail much of what had been reported and suspected about the 2013 redirection of George Washington Bridge traffic, which inflicted five days of paralyzing gridlock on Fort Lee, the borough across the bridge from Manhattan.
NEWS
April 17, 2015 | By Mark Fazlollah, Inquirer Staff Writer
The state Judicial Conduct Board filed disciplinary charges Wednesday against one current and three former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges, the latest action involving the disgraced and defunct court. The complaint charged Judge Michael J. Sullivan and former Judges Michael Lowry, Thomasine Tynes, and Kenneth Miller with violating the state constitution and judicial conduct rules in a massive ticket-fixing scandal. All four were indicted in a January 2013 federal case charging them with giving preferential treatment to politically connected defendants.
NEWS
April 16, 2015 | By Mike Newall, Inquirer Columnist
In Philly, we don't pick judges based on skill. That's not the way. The process has little to do with merit. It's all about the chance of a lucky ballot spot, and the sway of money and politics. The judicial kingmakers - the Democratic City Committee, the power brokers, the vote-wielding ward leaders - aren't sweating over quality, credentials, and experience. Hey, if you've got some brains, it probably won't hurt you. But if you don't, it's not going to count against you either.
NEWS
March 24, 2015
LAST Wednesday was Scott DiClaudio's lucky day. He won the political equivalent of the Mega Millions lottery. As one of 57 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to Common Pleas Court, DiClaudio picked the lowest number in the lottery held by state election officials to determine ballot position. He will appear in the No. 1 spot for that job in the May 19 primary, making him a virtual shoo-in to win one of the 12 seats in the court being filled this year. He might as well go get measured for a black robe.
NEWS
March 21, 2015 | By Jeremy Roebuck, Inquirer Staff Writer
Pastor Willie Singletary, a former Philadelphia Traffic Court judge, rolled up to the federal courthouse Thursday with a tour bus filled with churchgoing supporters, wearing a dapper dark suit and with his vocal cords primed to deliver the sermon of his life. In a reach-to-the-rafters performance before U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel, the 33-year-old recounted his rise to the bench and pleaded for mercy in a preacher-like cadence while invoking everything from his thwarted childhood desires to play Nintendo to recent racial strife between the black community and police.
NEWS
March 20, 2015 | BY BOB STEWART, Daily News Staff Writer stewarr@phillynews.com, 215-854-4890
AN IMPASSIONED plea for clemency from a preacher who is a former Philadelphia Traffic Court judge garnered a lot of "amens" but failed to move a federal judge Thursday. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel sentenced Willie Singletary to 20 months in prison for his role in a "ticket-fixing" scandal. "I have made some foolish and stupid decisions," Singletary said. "But all I want to do is help people. " More than 80 supporters packed the courtroom. Most hailed from Consolation Baptist Church in South Philly, where Singletary is the pastor.
NEWS
March 11, 2015 | BY WILLIAM BENDER, Daily News Staff Writer benderw@phillynews.com, 215-854-5255
TWO STATE representatives and a former one are expected to be charged today in the sting investigation that was buried by Attorney General Kathleen Kane and then resurrected by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. The current representatives are Michelle Brownlee, 58, and Louise Bishop, 81, a minister who hosts a weekday gospel-radio show. They allegedly were caught on tape accepting money from lobbyist-turned-informant Tyron Ali. The former representative facing charges is Harold James, 64, who's also a former police officer.
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