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.
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.
July 30, 1991 |
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.
May 31, 1991 |
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.
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.
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.
January 19, 1991 |
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.
July 18, 1991 |
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.
February 29, 2012 |
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.
December 18, 1986 |
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.