March 18, 2013
Due to the many charges of misconduct recently thrown against the judicial body, D-181State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas introduced a bill that would reform the Traffic Court of Philadelphia.
With the recent scandal splashed against the embattled court worsened by the indictment of nine former and current Traffic Court judges, the best option of city dads were to introduce reforms that would sanitize the Pa’s legal procedures.
In a statement, Thomas expressed his anger about the state of affairs happening in the Traffic Courts that are under administration of both Democrats and Republicans. He believed that the only way out of the scandal is to alter the current set-up of Traffic Court of seven judges to a court ruled over by a single presiding judge, called president and six other six judges to be called as masters.
As one of the minor courts within the 1st Judicial District, Traffic Court handles an enormous volume of cases yearly. The only difference is that the presiding judges are not lawyers but members of the community who elected and was able to pass a qualifying exam. The present law does not require and educational qualifications to serve as a judge in the traffic court. A candidate has only to be 21 years of age, a resident of Philadelphia and able to mount a successful campaign to win a position in the city that secure wields some degree of authority and prestige.
The proposal of Thomas also revised some of the qualifications: (1) those vying for the position of Traffic Court masters must have lived in Philadelphia for at least four years prior to running for election; (2) they were able to pass a certification examination; and (3) they meet minimum ethics training requirements. Thomas added more: (4) that masters educational qualification must at least be a minimum of a bachelor’s degree: (5) that they must not have any current violations (parking or moving); (6) must hold a validated driver’s license; and (7) do not have any prior criminal offense’s convictions not higher than a summary.
The legislation of Thomas also takes away the sole power of the Traffic Court to decide cases; masters are only allowed to conduct hearings as cases will be presented to the Municipal Court for final action.
Thomas said that it seems like a Herculean task to dismantle a law; he does not see any need of destroying the Traffic Court because it has been tainted by a history of corruption. His proposals would just be to streamline all cases that are now in the Traffic Court without transferring another burden upon Municipal Court. The Traffic Court will continue as an administrative court but ultimate conclusion of cases would be made by Municipal Court.
The good Representative is optimistic that this reform would in some ways eliminate the suspicion that judges are unfair in handling cases by giving some violators preferential treatment.
This proposal is different from other reforms introduced in the Senate, including the bill presented by Sen. Dominic Pileggi that would disassemble the entire Traffic Court. The proposal of Thomas does not demand any amendment of the constitutional that could be acted upon during the present session of a two-year legislative. If the bill of Pileggi becomes law, it can only be enforced on 2015.
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.