On eve of ticket-fixing trial, more reforms for Philly traffic court

     (Emily Brooks/for NewsWorks)

    (Emily Brooks/for NewsWorks)

    Jury selection is scheduled to start this week in the corruption trial of six former Philadelphia Traffic Court Judges for the ticket-fixing scandal that erupted more than a year ago.

    Against that backdrop, the District Attorney is stepping in to handle the more serious charges in traffic court. 

    In the past, police officers presented the charges and testimony for those accused of moving violations, under a revamped traffic court, Assistant District Attorneys and paralegals will handle prosecutions and plea bargains. Philadelphia D.A. Seth Williams said it’s designed to eliminate the corruption that has plagued traffic court for years.

    “Traffic court has made great strides in the past year, this is a unique and great opportunity to restore the public’s trust and confidence in the traffic court system,” Williams said. 

    It was more than a year ago when six former traffic court judges and two businessmen were accused of participating in a widespread ticket fixing scheme at the court. Judge Gary Glazier was appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to fix traffic court. He says now hearing officers handle most of the cases, with contentious ones going to municipal court judges.

    “It’s quite a different place physically and mentally,” Glazier said.

    Mayor Michael Nutter says the city is setting aside $800,000 to pay the prosecutors and their support staff working in traffic court, he says the extra expense is necessary.

    “Sadly what we’ve learned in recent times is that this court has operated with two tracks in dispensing justice — one for the connected and one for everyone else,” Nutter said, “It is a system that had to die, it must go away.”

    The new protocols are expected to be in place by July first.

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