9 Philadelphia Traffic Court Judges Charged with Fixing Tickets
Federal prosecutors are alleging citizens connected to nine Philadelphia traffic court judges received preferential treatment with what they called a “widespread culture of giving breaks on traffic citations”. They claim that everyday common people were out of luck in the scheme that fixed tickets for business associates, political allies, friends, and relatives of the judges.
The federal indictment charges six current and former Philadelphia traffic court judges and three suburban judges; including former Judge Willie Singletary who had been kicked out of court for showing improper images of himself on his cellphone to a female clerk.
The judges feel they did nothing wrong in their system of “consideration” as they did not accept any money for eliminating the tickets for people. Although defense attorneys have admitted their clients exchanged favors to alleviate the offenses from the driver’s records; they claim “the court has worked that way for a century.” (news.yahoo.com)
The indictment charges that one judge accepted car repairs, towing, seafood, and movies in a barter system for fixing the violations.
Defendant’s and their staff worked diligently in covering up the favors; shredding paperwork, using secret code words, and keeping a tight knit circle of people involved. “A well-understood conspiracy of silence fell over the system
and its participants,” the indictment said. (news.yahoo.com)
Prosecutors charge the judges would trade favors if tickets from friends and associates were assigned to other courts. They would dismiss charges and reduce fines to relieve them of stiff fines or points on their licenses.
“Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Gary S. Glazer, a former federal prosecutor tapped by Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald Castille to clean up traffic court, hailed Thursday’s indictment as a ‘very positive step toward reforming the institution. It has historically been a terribly troubled place, he told The Associated Press.” (news.yahoo.com)
The judges have all been suspended without pay pending the outcome of their respective cases.
The indictment charges that one defendant, Singletary, openly campaigned with promises of favors for his backers. The indictment quotes him as saying at a 2007 motorcycle club meeting, “There’s going to be a basket going around because I’m running for traffic court judge, right, and I need some money. I got some stuff that I got to do, but if you all can give me twenty dollars you’re going to need me in traffic court, am I right about that? … Now you all want me to get there, you’re all going to need my hook-up, right?” (news.yahoo.com)
One defense attorney spoke out on the case stating, “It’s been my experience that any little old lady in the suburbs… can walk in to her local magistrate judge, and expect to get a reduction in her charge. I don’t think that’s fraud. It’s just kind of the way it works.” (news.yahoo.com)
Attorneys for the defense opine that it has always been done this way in traffic court and since their clients did not accept money, they did nothing inappropriate. However, one attorney believed court workers should have been trained in ethics if new policies were going to be adopted.
Conversely, US Attorney Zane Memeger believes the arrangement deprived the city and state of revenues they would have collected from the tickets.
It appears there are two concepts at work in the defense; 1) it has always been done this way, and 2) nobody told them it was unethical.
The problem with following either line of reasoning is that we all learned better than this in elementary school.
First, simply because it “has always been done this way” does not make it right. Following that logic is like when your parents used to say, “If everybody else was jumping off of a bridge, would you?”
Second, does somebody really have to tell you it is unethical in order for you to determine right from wrong? You have been installed as a judge; a position that most people look up to as a reverent person, able to make decisions and cast judgment over others, yet, you make decisions based on giving preferential treatment and other biases.
Shame on you and shame on your attorneys for coming up with such a lame defense.