The only Philadelphia Traffic Court judge not to have been indicted in a recent federal prosecution of alleged ticket-fixing said in a court filing that she cooperated with an internal probe of the matter and should not be suspended.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a show-cause order April 18, asking Traffic Court Judge Christine Solomon to explain why she shouldn’t be suspended for failure to participate in the internal probe of the matter.
The Supreme Court is seeking to suspend Solomon for 90 days without pay for her “refusal to cooperate with the court-ordered administrative review of the Traffic Court,” according to the order.
In a filing made by Solomon’s counsel, West Chester, Pa., solo practitioner Samuel C. Stretton, Solomon argues that she was never given the chance to comment on the report prepared by consultancy Chadwick Associates, including principal William G. Chadwick, and that the report states incorrectly that she did not cooperate.
“Judge Solomon has fully cooperated with anyone who has requested her cooperation,” including when she was contacted by the Judicial Conduct Board with a letter of inquiry, Stretton said.
According to Chadwick Associates’ report, Solomon was one of three judges who did not cooperate with their internal review.
Chadwick Associates said it wanted to interview Solomon because her son, Matthew Solomon, had been acquitted 29 times in 38 traffic charges from 1998 to 2011, and because she had interacted with Traffic Court as a ward leader.
During the first two interviews, Christine Solomon denied having any knowledge that special consideration was given to the politically connected or other acquaintances of judges, the report said.
During the second interview, according to the report, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Gary S. Glazer, the administrative judge of Traffic Court, attended the interview and told Solomon that her claim that she never requested special consideration was not credible “and that as a judicial officer she has a responsibility to be truthful and fully forthcoming.” Solomon asserted that she was not feeling well and declined to be interviewed that day.
Solomon argued in court papers that only Glazer was present at the second interview, that she was ill with some form of flu and that Glazer “in essence, told her ‘take this as a threat or a promise I am going to get you.’”
During a third interview, according to the report, Solomon admitted having knowledge about such special consideration, including by sitting Traffic Court judges. But according to Chadwick Associates, Solomon then refused to provide any further information because she did not want to incriminate other people and because she was not a target of the federal investigation.
Solomon argued that only Chadwick was present at the first and third interviews.
“This honorable court cannot discipline a judge for providing answers that the judge believes is truthful even if Mr. Chadwick doesn’t accept the answers,” Stretton argued.
Solomon also argued that she has moved her cases “in an efficient and conscientious fashion,” and that she has acted appropriately, even going so far as to remove the telephone from her judicial chambers “to ensure no one contacts her or her office inappropriately.”
Solomon also argued that the rule to show cause with a 90-day suspension without pay is punitive in nature while the matter involves judicial discipline.
“Judge Solomon also respectfully contends that this honorable court has exceeded its authority under general supervisory responsibilities under Article V of the Pennsylvania Constitution and that this rule to show cause exceeds the administrative and supervisory responsibilities of this court and is trespassing into the judicial disciplinary side, which this court no longer has any responsibility at this level other than a limited right of appellate review,” according to Solomon’s filing.
Solomon also argued that the Supreme Court has no authority to discipline for any activity Solomon took as a ward leader “even though she respectfully contends she never acted inappropriately as a ward leader in reference to Philadelphia Traffic Court matters.”
Solomon also argued that it would be a personal hardship for her family for her to face suspension without pay.
Solomon was elected to the court in November 2011 and only began hearing cases in March 2012 because she initially failed her judicial examination.
In January, federal prosecutors indicted nine current and former traffic court judges for their alleged roles in the ticket-fixing scheme. Prosecutors said the ticket-fixing involved giving special consideration to judges’ friends or other social acquaintances or to friends or social acquaintances of certain politicians.
Solomon was not charged. As of mid-March, three of the judges who were charged have pled guilty.
Stretton was not available for comment immediately Friday afternoon. Glazer, who was brought in by the Supreme Court to oversee the Traffic Court in 2011, declined to comment.
Justice Seamus P. McCaffery, who was mentioned in the report conducted by Chadwick Associates as having gone to the Traffic Court and having spoken with an administrator on the same day his wife was to appear before the court for a traffic violation, dissented from the court’s order. He did not issue an opinion explaining his reasons for dissenting.
As to his mention in the report, McCaffery has said he spoke with a court administrator to seek an out-of-county judge to hear his wife’s case to avoid any appearance of impropriety.
Stretton is a columnist for The Legal.