Following the acquittal by a federal jury of participating in a ticket-fixing scheme, a former Philadelphia Traffic Court judge wants to finish out his six-year term on the bench and collect the $90,000 per year salary he lost while placed on suspension during the two-year investigation and trial.
The Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct filed new ethics charges against Michael Sullivan Monday, in a move to prevent the judge from returning to his post and collecting the compensation. Sullivan was one of five judges who received acquittals for the ticket-fixing charges, but he was the only one to escape charges of lying to federal authorities because he did not testify before the grand jury.
The state Supreme Court lifted its suspension of Sullivan last month, but he is still held back by a similar order from the Court of Judicial Discipline. Monday's filing seeks to keep it that way, with additional allegations that Sullivan ordered an assistant to falsify documents for a family member. It requests that the suspension remain in place until a final ruling.
"If Judge Sullivan is permitted to preside over cases in Philadelphia Traffic Court during the pendency of the board complaint," the filing says, "the public's confidence in the judiciary will continue to erode."
According to the complaint, on March 27, 2012, Sullivan approached Margaret Fenerty, the court administrative officer, and informed her that his cousin, Shane Sullivan, needed a new payment plan for fines after defaulting on a previous one. Sullivan allegedly told Fenerty that he was going to fill out the paperwork and send it to his cousin, who lived in Florida.
Fenerty objected to the plan, saying that Shane needed to file a request for a new payment plan before any actions could be taken. The complaint alleges that Sullivan persuaded another traffic court judge, Danielle Czernlakowski, to write a letter as if it came from Shane and send it to Fenerty.
Sullivan, who sat on Philadelphia’s Traffic Court for a half-decade, had been administrative judge of that bench since 2011. He had no legal background prior to his election, but will require a law degree to continue hearing cases in Municipal Court after the end of his current term in 2017.