House Votes to Eliminate PhillyTraffic Court

June 5, 2013

Following the most emotional dissent coming from Dem – Philadelphia, the House gave a 117- 81 on Senate Bill 333. This involves a process of amending Pa’s Constitution so it would definitely end the life of the Traffic Court. A final vote is expected within the week.

Philadelphia Traffic Court was facing so much unsavory issues that the drive to amend the Constitution was able to earn many adherents,

Nine presiding and past judges of the Traffic Court of Philadelphia were formally charged for their alleged roles in the ticket-fixing fraud. For unfairly favoring politically connected friends, business associates, and members of their family by dismissing tickets issued in exchange for personal or business favors were the accusations pointed to these judges.

Among the three past Traffic Court accused were:  Judge Fortunato N. Perri Sr., Judge Warren H. Hogeland and Judge Kenneth Miller. They accepted their   involvement in mail & wire fraud and conspiracy that was part of the scandal.

From his role as ticket fixer, Perri was alleged to have received reduction in lawn services, a free patio and other benefits in exchange for favors granted.

 R-Chester, Dominic Pileggi who is incumbent Senate Majority Leader, was able to sponsor successfully a legislation to abolish the traffic court when he reasoned that taxpayers should not be burdened footing the bill of a court that is not serving its purpose and is  the cause of embarrassment in Pa’s judicial system.

Despite Tuesday’s vote, the process of amending the state constitution is an arduous task that required at least two years and ultimately calls for a referendum.

Meanwhile, the state House is scheduled to vote on the approval of Senate Bill No. 334, which among its function would (1) dismantle the Pa’s Traffic Court and (2) transfer the responsibilities of the court to a Traffic Division that will be established within the Philadelphia Municipal Court.   

To become a law, SB 334 requires the signature of Gov. Tom Corbett’s unlike the other proposals, SB 333 does not need any  constitutional amendment.

The present Philadelphia Traffic Court is made up of seven elected judges which do not require any educational qualifications. One can be a judge in this court even without a law degree. Judges remuneration is $91,764 annually plus state benefits.

Executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, Lynn Marks, said that although the S.B. 334 will move sitting Traffic Court judges to the Traffic Division of Municipal Court, the bill does not mention the duties of these judges.

Marks emphasized a new Traffic Division to be successful will require mechanisms that make hearing officers accountable for their behavior.

According to the Senate Appropriation Committee, this coming fiscal year, the state will be able to save $650,000 from judicial organization. However, the committee added that amending the state constitution would cost between $2 million and $3 million.

Although it does require that candidates complete a course in traffic law, Pileggi’s bills do not require the new Traffic Division judges to be lawyer. Spokesperson for Pileggi, Erik Arneson said the purpose was to guarantee that the judges in the traffic court are comparable to district judges that are not required a degree in law.

D-Philadelphia Rep. Michael McGeehan of D-Philadelphia criticized the body for focusing their attention only in Pa. and giving their attention to passing problems in the Court. McGeehan stated a long list of other judicial infractions and concluded that real reforms can be accomplished when judges are required to be lawyers.

Not everyone is optimistic of the reforms presented by Pileggi’s might cut on the bud any taint of ticket-fixing.

Communications director of the National Association Motorist, John Bowman, opined that corruption in relation to traffic laws was not anything new. He continued that corruption thrives when there are enough arbitrary and unreasonable laws that do not give someone a chance.

If you have received a traffic ticket, please contact an experienced  Philadelphia Traffic Lawyer to know about rules of the road. Protect right to drive legally.

 

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