Court of Judicial Discipline Judge Bernard L. McGinley
One of the jurists caught up in the ticket-fixing scandal at the now defunct Philadelphia Traffic Court has been suspended without pay.
Pennsylvania’s Court of Judicial Discipline has granted a petition by the Judicial Conduct Board to keep Judge Michael Sullivan off the bench without compensation until further notice.
Sullivan was one of nine judges who were indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia earlier this year over allegations that they tossed motor vehicle citations for friends, relatives and the politically connected.
Sullivan, who sat on Philadelphia’s Traffic Court for a half-decade, had been administrative judge of that bench since 2011.
In an opinion accompanying its Aug. 9 order, the CJD drew contrast between its decision to grant fellow Traffic Court Judge Mark Bruno’s request to continuing receiving a paycheck during his suspension, and its ruling to have Sullivan’s paycheck canceled while his criminal charges are pending.
The CJD had earlier suspended Bruno with pay.
Essentially, the disciplinary court determined that the crimes with which Sullivan is being charged are more serious than those faced by Bruno.
“When Bruno and Sullivan are viewed alongside each other what is noticeable is their differences, not their similarities, so our decision that Bruno should be suspended with pay rather than without pay carries no precedential weight or influence in our deciding that question hear,” the CJD wrote in its opinion. “The extent and nature of the differences between the cases is easily recognized by reading what the Indictment alleges about the respective participation of Bruno and Sullivan in the illegal scheme described there.”
The disciplinary court also pointed out the differences between the various levels of involvement in the day to day operations of Traffic Court as justification for its decision to suspend Bruno with pay, and Sullivan without.
Bruno is an out-of-county magisterial district judge who occasionally heard Philadelphia motor vehicle cases on a per assignment basis while Sullivan was the administrative judge of Philadelphia Traffic Court who was there day in and day out, the CJD noted.
The court also stated that the federal government’s indictment doesn’t allege that Bruno ever placed anything in the mail or participated in any interstate phone calls or wire communications in furtherance of the allegedly illegal ticket-fixing scheme, while Sullivan is alleged to have used his position in the community to “fix” tickets for family members, friends, a former politician, a Philadelphia political ward leader and customers of the Fireside Tavern, a business owned by Sullivan, the CJD’s opinion states.
Federal prosecutors allege that Sullivan directed Fireside customers to leave their traffic citations or related documents at the city bar for him; tavern employees supposedly placed the documents in a box behind the bar.
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Pa. CJD suspends indicted administrative Phila. Traffic Court judge without pay