Philadelphia Traffic Court, long viewed as a swamp of political corruption (see related stories), is now history.
Governor Tom Corbett today signed legislation that transfers Philadelphia Traffic Court’s duties to Municipal Court.
Effective immediately, Traffic Court functions are under the supervision of Municipal Court, though the complete transition may take weeks or months.
State senator Dominic Pileggi (R-Chester County), the Senate majority leader, sponsored the legislation.
“Municipal Court will hire hearing officers to handle traffic cases,” says Erik Arneson, a Pileggi spokesman. “There’s no set number, but we would anticipate it would be in the range of probably five to seven. That’s the number of judges that Traffic Court had.”
Arneson says the three currently open seats on Traffic Court, for which elections had been planned in November, will not be filled.
“Those elections are canceled,” Arneson said today.
Two other Traffic Court seats will be eliminated when the terms of the current holders expire at the end of the year, and two others will disappear at the end of 2017. But those temporarily remaining Traffic Court judges will be under the supervision of Municipal Court, which will determine their responsibilities.
Arneson says that while Municipal Court will get two more judges as a result of the change, it’s anticipated that hearing officers will decide most traffic cases.
The bill signed into law eliminates Traffic Court for practical purposes. The state constitution will have to be amended to formally eliminate it, and that cannot happen until 2015 at the earliest.