In the wake of an internal report that alleged rampant ticket-fixing in Traffic Court for the politically connected, there will be two separate fact-finding processes for First Judicial District employees.
One process governs employees who work for the FJD who technically are state employees, and one process will govern city-level employees.
Employees who are court administrators — who are actually state employees because court administrators were moved into the purview of the Administrator Office of Pennsylvania Courts — will be subject to fact-finding and “appropriate proceedings” under Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas President Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe and State Court Administrator Zygmont Pines, said Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Gary Glazer, the administrative judge of Traffic Court and a member of the FJD’s Administrative Governing Board.
That process would apply to at least two employees in the case: Chief Deputy Court Administrator Charles Mapp Sr. and Deputy Court Administrator Bob DeEmilio.
The report alleged that Mapp sought assistance from DeEmilio in a Traffic Court case Mapp’s son was facing, and DeEmilio then communicated that request for special consideration to William “Billy” Hird, a former director of courtroom operations who also was alleged to have fixed tickets and served as a clearinghouse for requests.
Mapp’s son was acquitted by the presiding judge, as well as in two other Traffic Court cases, the report said. Another judge also acquitted Mapp’s son, according to the report.
City-side employees will be governed by their collective bargaining agreements, if they are unionized, and overall by the normal rules of the FJD, Glazer said. Those employees’ possible discipline will be handled as it would in any case in which there is a question involving employee conduct, Glazer said, and they will not “receive any more scrutiny or less scrutiny.”
Glazer was appointed last year to oversee the minor court in the wake of a federal investigation into alleged ticket-fixing at Traffic Court.
There is a fact-finding process with a hearing officer for city-side employees, Glazer said.
Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge John W. Herron, chair of the AGB and administrative judge of the trial division, said that agreement on the processes was reached by consensus. But Herron said that the processes were just getting going, were still in development and that the AGB still needs more information from the firm that conducted the internal review.
William G. Chadwick of Chadwick Associates is slated to meet this week with the AGB, which is made up of the administrative and president judges of the FJD’s three courts, to discuss his firm’s report and interviews with city employees, Herron said.
One outstanding question is if employees who cooperated with Chadwick Associates would face any discipline. Glazer declined comment on that particular question, saying only that the situation was still under review by the AGB.
FJD Court Administrator David Wasson said in an interview last week before the AGB met that typically for city-side employees, an employee’s supervisor is the person who conducts the fact-finding but that it also could be the deputy court administrator in that person’s direct chain of command or someone from human resources. The appointing authority for fact-finding typically is the judicial head of each of the FJD’s divisions, whether it is an administrative judge or a president judge or the court administrator, who heads the court administrative division, Wasson said.
“Somebody will be appointed to review whatever’s out there and present that to the person who makes the determination,” Wasson said.
For state employees, under AOPC polices, “it’s the PJ and the state court administrator who impose discipline,” Wasson said.
Wasson had similar comments to Glazer on the fairness of process that will be applied to employees.
“No one is jumping to conclusions,” Wasson said. “It’ll be a very fair process for everyone involved.”
Wasson said he did not attend the AGB meeting last week as the meeting was kept to the judges.
As for the judges named in the report, Robert Graci, chief counsel of the Judicial Conduct Board, said that he could neither confirm nor deny that the JCB would investigate them.
Along with the Traffic Court judges named as allegedly agreeing to treat some tickets favorably, the report mentioned Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery.
According to the report, two Traffic Court administrators said in interviews with Chadwick Associates that they were in a meeting with Hird, when Hird said he had received a cellphone text message from McCaffery asking Hird to meet with him. One of the administrators said he later learned that McCaffery’s wife, Lise Rapaport, had been found not guilty of a traffic violation that day, according to the report. The other court administrator, according to the report, told Chadwick Associates that Hird reported that he had escorted Rapaport into the building, “seen to it that she was ‘okay,’ and then ‘went outside and saw Seamus in the car.’ The administrator reported that Hird had told him on numerous occasions that he was close to Justice McCaffery, whom he referred to as ‘chief.’”
According to the report, McCaffery did an interview with Chadwick Associates in which he reported that he called Hird, who he knew from political campaigns, because he wanted to have Rapaport’s case assigned to an “out-of-county judge because it would be a conflict for a Philadelphia Traffic Court judge to hear Rapaport’s case. … Justice McCaffery said he did not know at the time that Hird was the key contact for politically connected individuals outside of Traffic Court seeking special consideration on motor vehicle cases.”
Hird met with McCaffery in McCaffery’s car until Rapaport returned from her hearing, according to the report’s iteration of McCaffery’s interview.
Rapaport was acquitted July 16, 2010, by Warren Hogeland, a senior magisterial district judge from Bucks County.
Overall, the report found that both elected Traffic Court judges and senior judges who were assigned to the court “routinely entertained and acted upon extrajudicial, ex parte requests for favorable treatment of traffic violators from sources within the Traffic Court and sources external to its operations. The judges also made their own requests for favorable treatment from other Traffic Court judges and granted preferential treatment sua sponte in the absence of special requests to violators whose identities or whose connections they knew. … Numerous court employees at all levels of administration participated in this practice and treated the ability to influence the outcomes of traffic cases on behalf of themselves, their family members and their friends as a perquisite of their jobs or as a requirement of employment.”
A total of four judges were interviewed as well as McCaffery and 42 court employees, according to the report.