It's hard to say whether Warren Bloom would be a bad traffic judge. That's because the job, for which Bloom is seeking the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, has virtually no prerequisites beyond possessing a pulse, living in Philadelphia, and winning a pale imitation of an election.
It's somewhat easier to determine whether Bloom has, at least at times, been a bad taxpayer, a bad uncle, and a very bad rapper. That's because he owes more than $20,000 in taxes (which might be helped by a traffic judge's $91,000 salary); was once convicted of indecent assault on a 14-year-old variously described as his cousin or niece; and recently rapped to a meeting of his fellow local Democrats, "Bloom in the spring; do the right thing. I'm from the 'hood; I'll do you good."
But there is one thing Bloom really does do good: draw numbers from a coffee can. That is the procedure (no, really) that gave the candidate the top position on the Democratic ballot, and with it a very good chance at nomination next week and election in the fall.
But there is hope, and it resides, uncharacteristically, in Harrisburg. In February, after federal authorities charged most of the city's Traffic Court judges in a ticket-fixing scheme, the state Senate voted unanimously for two bills that would abolish the benighted institution. The state House Judiciary Committee passed the measures last week.
The three vacant Traffic Court positions that Bloom and 26 others are running for would be eliminated before they're elected if the full House gets around to passing one of the bills before Nov. 5 - a.k.a. "Bloomsday." The other measure would begin the process of amending the state constitution to euthanize Traffic Court itself. Its duties would be turned over to Municipal Court - you know, the one where the judges have law degrees.
The alternative is to wait for more misadventures both high and low. We could see more of the kind of rampant corruption and political favoritism uncovered by state and federal authorities over the past year. Or we could get more antics in the style of former traffic Judge "Free" Willie Singletary, who showed lewd photographs of what's been called the "lower court" to a female employee.
Traffic Court's lonely defender on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown (D., Phila.), argued that it would be a mistake to "abolish a whole court system just because people were doing wrong." On the contrary, recent and current events show that the court is a factory for wrongdoing.
Indeed, Traffic Court is only the most extreme example of the perils of Pennsylvania's elected judiciary, which are only somewhat mitigated by the additional qualifications required of candidates for higher judgeships (e.g., law degrees). Here's hoping Traffic Court will not be the last corner of the judiciary where lawmakers, to paraphrase MC Bloom, do the right thing.