Pa. Supreme Court names master to oversee discipline proceeding against only Phila. Traffic Court judge not charged in ticket-fixing scandal

By Jon Campisi | May 23, 2013

And the Philadelphia Traffic Court saga continues, the latest twist being the state

Supreme Court’s decision to name a senior lower-tier appellate court judge to serve as a special master overseeing a disciplinary matter against the only sitting Traffic Court judge not to be charged in a federal ticket-fixing scandal.

In a May 21 per curiam order, the high court appointed Senior Superior Court Judge William H. Platt to serve as a master in a case involving Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Christine Solomon, who was the only one out of nine sitting and former Traffic Court judges not indicted by the federal government in an alleged scam that involved jurists fixing tickets for family, friends and politically connected acquaintances.

The Supreme Court plans to suspend Solomon for 90 days without pay for allegedly not participating in an internal probe into the ticket-fixing allegations, something that Solomon denies, according to news reports and court papers.

This week’s Supreme Court order charges Platt with gathering “necessary factual information” and considering “pertinent legal questions” surrounding Solomon’s situation.

“Senior Judge Platt shall forward his Report and Recommendations, detailing proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, as soon as practicable,” the high court wrote in its one-page order.

Solomon would then have 20 days to raise any possible objections to Platt’s recommendations and findings.

After that, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts would be given 14 days from the date on which it is served with Solomon’s objections to file its own answer.

The internal probe into the Traffic Court ticket-fixing scandal commenced prior to the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s announcement that nine former and current Philadelphia Traffic Court judges had been indicted on allegations that they either threw out traffic citations entirely or found those charged with infractions guilty of lesser offenses because of personal connections.

The scandal was a black eye for the already beleaguered minor judiciary, which had been tainted by past controversies, such as the former jurist who was forced off the bench because of allegations that he showed cellphone photos of his genitals to a female court staffer.

State lawmakers appear fed up with the scandal-plagued bench, which is the only one of its kind in the commonwealth.

Legislation is currently pending in the General Assembly that would abolish Philadelphia Traffic Court, and transfer its duties over to Philadelphia Municipal Court.

The proposal requires passage in two consecutive legislative sessions followed by a public referendum since it would involve amending the commonwealth’s constitution, meaning the court ideally couldn’t cease to exist until the spring of 2015.

Elected Philadelphia Traffic Court judges, like magisterial district judges in other Pennsylvania counties, are not required to have any legal training and do not need to be licensed attorneys in order to run for the post.

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