The state House's Judiciary Committee today voted to approve two pieces of legislation designed to abolish Philadelphia Traffic Court. The full House will now consider the two bills, passed unanimously by the state Senate in February, just days after nine current or former Traffic Court judges were charged in a wide-spread scheme to fix tickets as political favors.
One of the bills, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, a Delaware County Republican, would eliminate three vacant Traffic Court seats on Tuesday's primary election ballot.
Pileggi's second bill would abolish Traffic Court, folding the agency's duties into Municipal Court, where appointed hearing examiners would handle traffic cases. That bill, which was amended in the House to add two new Municipal Court judge seats in Philadelphia, requires a statewide ballot referendum to alter the Pennsylvania Constitution.
The vote on both bills was 24-1 with only state Rep. Vanessa Lowry Brown of Philadelphia voting no. Brown later said the General Assembly should allow the judicial system to work in the criminal cases against the Traffic Court judges but not abolish the court.
"I don't understand why you have to abolish a whole court system just because people were doing wrong," Brown said. "You get people in there who can do the right thing and hold them accountable. I just don't get it."
The push to abolish Traffic Court did little this year to discourage interest in the job, which pays $91,052. There are 25 Democrats and two Republicans on Tuesday's ballot for the three vacant positions. Candidates do not have to be an attorney to become a Traffic Court judge.