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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
July 25, 2016
With new flags on the Parkway, new lights on the boathouses, and new efforts to shelter the homeless, the Democrats who have run Philadelphia for more than half a century have cleaned up the city for the Democratic National Convention. If only they could clean up themselves. Given its historic resonance, continuing revival, and convenient location in a politically important state, Philadelphia is a fine place for a convention. The city's chief flaw as a backdrop for the Democrats is, well, the Democrats.
NEWS
May 4, 2016
ISSUE | TRAFFIC COURT Credit to Castille It was wonderful to see the Inquirer recognize voters for their sensible decision to remove Philadelphia Traffic Court from the Pennsylvania Constitution last week, ending years of corrupt practices ("For Traffic Court, voters decide the fix is out," Friday). The article did a good job of recounting the court's history, but people should know that the charge for change was led by then-state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille.
NEWS
May 4, 2016
Municipal Court Judge Dawn Segal probably didn't suspect the FBI was listening when another judge asked her to fix a case or when she told him, according to recently filed legal documents, "I took care of it. " Why would she expect anyone in authority to monitor judges' conduct? In Pennsylvania, lax enforcement of judicial ethical standards has been the norm, and it has fostered a system pervaded by casual corruption, from rampant ticket-fixing by traffic judges to bigoted and pornographic emails traded by justices of the state's highest court.
NEWS
April 30, 2016 | By Jeremy Roebuck, Staff Writer
Philadelphia Traffic Court died Tuesday after a decades-long illness. The cause of death: corruption. It was 48. Shepherded to its grave by a statewide ballot measure, the court was preceded in death by other antiquated city patronage mills like the Clerk of Quarter Sessions (2010) and the Board of Revision of Taxes (also 2010, although after only four months in the grave, that one rose again). It is survived by a string of its former judges who have either spent time in or are still confined to prison for crimes tied to fixing tickets in exchange for porn, concert tickets, or the simple opportunity to extend a favor to a friend.
NEWS
April 22, 2016 | By Julie Shaw, STAFF WRITER
A younger brother of imprisoned former Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary pleaded guilty on Wednesday to three counts of robbery and related offenses. Under a plea deal, Hasheem Singletary, 17, was sentenced to 5 1/2 to 12 years in state prison and three years' probation by Common Pleas Judge Lillian Ransom. In addition to the robbery charges, Singletary pleaded guilty to three counts each of conspiracy and possession of an instrument of crime, and one count of receiving stolen property.
NEWS
April 8, 2016 | By Jeremy Roebuck, Staff Writer
Facing sentencing Wednesday on federal tax fraud charges, former Traffic Court Judge Michael J. Sullivan offered an unusual argument to the court: Come on, really? Yes, the judge had paid most of the staff at his family bar in South Philadelphia under the table in cash, his lawyer said. And yes, he pleaded guilty last year to failing to report $48,089 in payroll taxes over 11 years. But in a city burdened by violent crime and serious public corruption, defense attorney Henry Hockeimer asked, don't federal authorities have anything better to investigate than a neighborhood bar where employees never made more than $30 to $40 a shift?
NEWS
April 8, 2016
The freewheeling former Philadelphia Traffic Court, where tickets were fixed for gifts of crab cakes and porn or just to keep political bosses happy, could soon be officially relegated to the history books where it belongs. As voters contemplate whether to abolish a court that brought so little justice and so much embarrassment to the city, they should consider the real justice that was visited upon the court. Traffic Court was so corrupt that a federal jury found four of its judges guilty of lying to a grand jury or the FBI in a sprawling ticket-fixing case.
NEWS
March 31, 2016
By Gaetan J. Alfano, Deborah R. Gross, and Mary F. Platt On April 26, Pennsylvania voters will have the opportunity to eliminate a court whose time has long since come and gone. Through the late 1960s, the old Philadelphia Magistrate Courts became clogged with numerous traffic violation cases and were beset by massive corruption. In 1968, as part of an overhaul of the state constitution, Philadelphia Traffic Court was created. Although intended to deal specifically with traffic violations, Philadelphia Traffic Court became a breeding ground for corruption and political patronage jobs.
NEWS
February 18, 2016
Clarification: Prominent attorney Richard A. Sprague expressed concern that by the editorial below referring to him as a member of the "old boys' network," readers may have inferred he was part of the "network" in which offensive emails were exchanged and that he sent or received emails similar to those that have been identified as part of the "Porngate" scandal.  For the record and for clarification, no such inference was intended by  ...
NEWS
January 16, 2016 | By Mark Fazlollah and Craig R. McCoy, STAFF WRITERS
In 2014, Michael J. Sullivan was the only accused Traffic Court judge to escape any convictions in a federal ticket-fixing investigation. That acquittal did him little good Thursday, when the state's Court of Judicial Discipline found that he indeed fixed tickets, and violated ethics rules in the process. And even though Sullivan quit the Traffic Court bench, the ruling could cost him his state pension. In the disciplinary tribunal's strongly worded decision, Superior Court Judge Jack Panella said Sullivan brought "the judicial office into disrepute.
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