One of the jurist’s caught up in the federal corruption scandal involving allegations of
ticket-fixing at Philadelphia Traffic Court has filed a federal lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Supreme Court over allegations that his suspension from the minor court bench violated his constitutional rights.
Mark A. Bruno, a magisterial district judge in West Chester who occasionally heard Philadelphia Traffic Court cases, filed suit March 14 against six Supreme Court justices: Ronald D. Castille, Thomas G. Saylor, J. Michael Eakin, Debra McCloskey Todd, Seamus P. McCaffery and Max Baer.
Justice Joan Orie Melvin, who herself is currently suspended from office following a public corruption conviction, and was not involved in Bruno’s suspension, was not named as a defendant in the federal suit.
Bruno, who is being represented by lawyer Samuel Stretton, and who first began work as a magisterial district judge in 1998, says in his complaint that he initially found out about his suspension via local news reports.
He received the court order in the mail about four days after it was issued.
Bruno claims that the suspension order was done “without even a rudimentary concern for fundamental due process.”
“The Order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspending Judge Bruno without pay dated February 1, 2013, was issued without any opportunity to respond, without any notice the Supreme Court was considering suspending him, without any papers filed by the Judicial Conduct Board before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, without any opportunity for the Plaintiff, Judge Bruno, to respond or have an adjudicatory hearing,” the lawsuit reads.
Bruno, who currently is not receiving his salary but continues to receive medical benefits, maintains that he has been deprived of his ability to support his family and deprived of his ability to properly pay his attorneys to defend against the accusations.
Due to its complex nature, the federal criminal trial against Bruno will likely not take place anytime before November of this year, the complaint states, and there’s a good chance the case won’t get to trial until next January.
Meanwhile, Bruno contends that he has had difficulty in obtaining other work during his judicial suspension.
“The Defendant has been deprived of his salary for which he was duly elected without due process of law, without any finding that he violated any criminal statute and without any finding that he acted inappropriately or illegally or criminally,” the lawsuit states.
Bruno also claims in his suit that the state Supreme Court overstepped its authority in issuing his suspension since that charge is solely left to the state’s Court of Judicial Discipline.
The Supreme Court has been “severely limited” by constitutional and statutory amendments that passed in 1993, the suit states, which limit the high court in judicial discipline cases to a “very limited appellate review,” the complaint states.
Bruno seeks declaratory and injunctive relief enjoining the defendants from suspending the plaintiff pending the resolution of his criminal trial.
He also seeks to have a federal judge order that he be paid retroactively for salary and benefits not received.
Bruno was one of nine current or former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges who were recently charged by federal authorities with dismissing traffic citations for friends, family members and the politically connected.
So far, three of the judges have pleaded guilty in federal court.
The federal case number is 2:13-cv-01357-AB.