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Philadelphia Traffic Court is one step closer to extinction

The threat does not deter candidates: 27 have filed for three openings in Tuesday's primary elections.

PHILADELPHIA Traffic Court is closer to extinction after just one Democrat voted yesterday to save the controversial agency.

The state House's Judiciary Committee voted to approve two pieces of legislation designed to abolish the 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 huge scheme to fix tickets as political favors.

One of the bills, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, a Delaware County Republican, eliminates three vacant Traffic Court seats for which candidates are competing in Tuesday's primary election.

The second bill folds Traffic Court's duties into Municipal Court, where appointed hearing examiners would handle cases.

That bill, amended in the Judiciary Committee to add two new Municipal Court judges in Philadelphia, requires a statewide ballot referendum to alter the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The vote on both bills was 24-1, with state Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown of Philadelphia voting no. Brown later said the judicial system should be allowed to sort out the criminal cases against the Traffic Court judges.

"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 a year. There are 25 Democrats and two Republicans on Tuesday's ballot for the three vacant positions. A candidate does not have to be a lawyer to become a Traffic Court judge.