Sunday, January 17, 2016

CJD Finds Ex-Traffic Court Judge Broke Conduct Rules

The Court of Judicial Discipline has found the ex-administrative judge of the Philadelphia Traffic Court, Michael Sullivan, brought the judiciary into disrepute with his role in a ticket-fixing scheme that pervaded the court.

The disciplinary court ruled Thursday that Sullivan had violated several rules governing the conduct of magisterial district judges, prejudiced the proper administration of justice and brought the office into disrepute. The opinion and order, which was written by Judge Jack A. Panella, also set a sanctions hearing for Feb. 5 in the Commonwealth Court courtroom in Harrisburg.

Although Sullivan and several other ex-Traffic Court judges had been found not guilty in the federal prosecution stemming from the same ticket-fixing allegations, the Judicial Conduct Board had contended that Sullivan's conduct violated the state constitution and the state's Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges.

Following a disciplinary trial in November, the court agreed that Sullivan had violated the conduct rules and said he played a large role in a system of "special consideration" for Traffic Court defendants who were politically connected, or friends and family members of the judges and court employees.

"The process afforded to his friends and family, and those with political connections, was different from that given to other members of the general public. In short, respondent and the colleagues who joined him in this system were 'fixing tickets,'" Panella said. "A more apparent case of conduct which brings the judicial office into disrepute is difficult to perceive."

Sullivan's attorney, Samuel C. Stretton, said he was "shocked" by the opinion, and said it did not take the facts of the case into consideration.

"The court's not supposed to start out with an agenda," Stretton said. "They totally ignored the undisputed facts in this case."

Stretton said Sullivan, who only has a high school education, had been taught by other judges that the system was proper procedure, and said that none of the police officers who appeared before Sullivan ever objected to the fact that Sullivan discussed citations with defendants before trial.

"He only gave mercy to the people who deserved it," Stretton said, adding that he plans to file objections to the court's findings.

The court's findings come on the heels of Sullivan pleading guilty to paying employees of his tavern under the table.

Sullivan entered his plea in early December before U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for failing to report and pay payroll taxes for employees of the Fireside Tavern, a South Philadelphia bar he co-owned. Sullivan could face up to a year in prison as a result.

In 2014, Sullivan and five other former judges were the focus of a two-month criminal trial for the ticket-fixing scheme.

At the conclusion, Sullivan, Chester County Magisterial District Judge Mark A. Bruno and businessman Robert Moy were found not guilty of fraud and conspiracy charges. Four other former Traffic Court judges beat the government's ticket-fixing charges but were convicted of lying.

The disciplinary court's opinion primarily focused on how Sullivan treated a case involving a friend, and another case involving a bartender who worked at the Fireside Tavern.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
CJD Finds Ex-Traffic Court Judge Broke Conduct Rules

1 comment:

StandUp said...

There seems to be alot of judges in PA on the hotseat.