Editorial: Traffic Court Judge
Give him the boot
Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Willie F. Singletary's brief judicial career has veered into a ditch. Now it's time to call a tow truck to haul him away.
There's no logical way the state's Court of Judicial Discipline can let Singletary keep his $82,733-a-year job as a jurist, given the findings this week by the panel.
The court ruled that Singletary - famously caught on video telling a 2007 gathering of motorcyclists "you're going to need my hook-up" as he passed the hat for campaign donations - broke more rules than most of the violators who come into his traffic court.
With his sleazy campaign pitch, Singletary brought disrepute to the court, pledged improper conduct in office, and violated the ban on judicial candidates raising funds directly, the disciplinary court ruled.
Now the judicial discipline panel members will meet to set Singletary's penalty. It's an easy call: He should be removed from the bench.
After all, the court's ruling described the young judge - Singletary is just 27 - as "the pure antithesis of the concept of 'judge.' "
Voters should have headed off this controversy by rejecting Singletary's candidacy last year. In addition to the uproar over his plea for donations, Singletary - vying for
- had run up $11,000 in traffic tickets and had his driver's license suspended until 2011.
Such a scofflaw sitting in judgment of other traffic scofflaws makes a mockery of the city's judicial system.
By luck of the draw, Singletary secured the top ballot position last year, giving him an edge with uninformed voters. Indeed, his victory illustrates a drawback in electing judges as opposed to merit-based appointment. Voters often make their selection based upon ballot position, gender, ethnicity or name recognition - rather than qualifications.
Singletary's actions make him the poster child in the drive to reform how Pennsylvania chooses its judges. For the discipline panel to maintain any credibility, it must strip Singletary of his black robe.