By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia officials today unveiled details on the long-planned overhaul of the city’s corruption-tainted Traffic Court (see related story).
For the first time, the district attorney’s office will handle prosecution of the cases.
After several traffic court judges were indicted on ticket-fixing charges (related story), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court opted to fold Philadelphia Traffic Court into Municipal Court (another related story), and now Mayor Nutter and others have revealed how the new Traffic Court will operate.
“This court will rise from the ashes of a tainted system, and provide true justice here in the City of Philadelphia,” the mayor said today. “No longer will politically or otherwise connected defendants be able to count on special consideration — apparently known nodding and winking — from certain court officials.”
The biggest change is that four assistant district attorneys and ten paralegals from the DA’s office will handle prosecution of the cases.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge Gary Glazer (second from left in top photo), appointed by the state Supreme Court to oversee these changes, says this will be a vast improvement over the old system, in which a police officer served as both witness and prosecutor.
“A lot of these tickets are resolved through plea bargaining. And a thought is that it would better to have a more uniform legal view of plea bargainings, rather than put the police officers in the unfair position of representing the party that writes the tickets, and then having to make the plea bargains as well,” Glazer said.
District attorney Seth Williams (second from right in photo below) says he is pleased that his prosecutors will now be part of the Traffic Court process.
“We look forward to working with them, to ensure that the public’s confidence and trust is restored to our traffic court system,” he said.
William said the four ADAs and ten paralegals will handle about 500 cases a day, with the ADAs focusing on repeat violators who might face jail time.
Judge Glazer says the new Traffic Court system should be up and running by July 1st, but he admits many details need to be worked out.
“We are figuring out how to fly the airplane at the same time that we’re building it,” he says. “There’s no book on how to start a new court.”
Mayor Nutter will propose increasing the DA’s budget by $800,000, to pay for the fourteen new positions. Cases will continue to be heard at 8th and Spring Garden Streets.