The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently issued an order staying proceedings against
Christine Solomon, the only judge not to be indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the federal ticket-fixing scandal at the since-abolished Philadelphia Traffic Court.
In a brief order filed on July 12, the high court temporarily suspended proceedings taking place before Judge William H. Platt, who was appointed by the justices as a special master to oversee the Solomon matter.
Platt sits on the state’s Superior Court as a senior judge.
Solomon was the only Traffic Court judge not to be swept up in the federal ticket-fixing scandal, in which nine jurists were accused of dismissing motor vehicle citations for friends, relatives and the politically connected.
The scandal seemed to be the last straw for state lawmakers, who recently passed a bill to eliminate the court from the state judiciary.
A companion bill, which would formally amend the state constitution to allow for the minor bench’s elimination, still has to pass the General Assembly during the next legislative session; a public referendum is also required.
Motor vehicle citation appeals cases have since been transferred to Philadelphia Municipal Court, which is in the midst of creating a separate traffic division as per the bill’s instruction.
Meanwhile, the high court had appointed Platt as a special master to oversee proceedings against Solomon, who the justices assert should be suspended for 90 days for her alleged failure to cooperate with consultants hired by the Supreme Court to look into the ticket-fixing allegations.
The high court’s internal probe took place before federal prosecutors filed their indictments against the nine current and former Traffic Court judges.
Solomon was the only sitting Philadelphia Traffic Court judge not to be indicted by the federal government.
In its order last week, the Supreme Court granted a petition by the Judicial Conduct Board to intervene in the Solomon proceedings.
The high court stated that nothing in its order constrains the JCB in pursuing its own inquiry into the factual question of whether or not Solomon reasonably cooperated with the Traffic Court investigation.
The justices ordered their prothonotary to issue an expedited briefing schedule to permit the JCB to pursue the constitutional issues set forth in its petition.
The prothonotary was also directed to schedule oral arguments for the case.
Before legislators voted to abolish Philadelphia Traffic Court, it remained the only minor bench of its kind in the commonwealth’s 67 counties.
Traffic Court judges who, like all Pennsylvania judges, were elected into office by voters, did not need to be licensed attorneys and were not required to have any legal training whatsoever prior to throwing their name in the running for judgeship.