Traffic Court Judge May Lose His Seat

Joseph A. Slobodzian, Philadelphia Inquirer, April 24, 2008

Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Willie F. Singletary was elected in November despite having had his driver’s license suspended until 2011 for accumulating $11,427.50 in fines for 55 traffic tickets.

Now Singletary is in danger of losing his three-month-old robe—and the $82,733-a-year paycheck that goes with it—for a campaign appearance videotaped and made public on the YouTube Internet site.

It was an appearance that raised $285 for his campaign.

The state Judicial Conduct Board filed five misconduct counts against him Tuesday for an April 22, 2007, campaign appearance in which he pressed a group of motorcyclists for campaign donations.

“You’re all going to need me in Traffic Court, am I right about that?” he asked the group.

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Singletary said his father paid his fines.

The Judicial Conduct Board’s eight-page complaint alleges that Singletary’s appearance at a “Blessing of the Bikes” rally at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia—Singletary is also a pastor and avid motorcyclist—”brought the judicial office into disrepute.”

The video shows Singletary under a tent telling motorcyclists, members of the Philadelphia First State Road Rattlers, that he needs to raise $15,000 within a week. He then asks an aide to pass around a bucket, and some bikers begin reaching into pockets and wallets.

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According to the Judicial Conduct Board’s Web site, the 15-year-old agency gets 500 to 600 complaints a year about judges, but no more than a half-dozen result in a formal complaint against a judge. Another one to two dozen result in one of two types of letters of reprimand. The remainder are dismissed after investigation.

If the charges are proved at trial before the Court of Judicial Discipline, a judge can be further reprimanded, suspended, removed from office, and restricted from future judicial work.

[Editor’s Note: Watch candidate Singletary mix campaigning, religion, and motorcycling here.]

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