Ethics board says Philly judge ruled on cases early for trip

December 19, 2022 GMT

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Philadelphia judge attempted to rule on dozens of traffic citations before the scheduled hearing date because she planned to be in Florida that day, according to a report made public Monday by the Pennsylvania body that handles complaints of judicial misconduct.

In a complaint filed with the state’s Court of Judicial Discipline last Wednesday alleging nine counts of misconduct, the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board said that Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Marissa Brumbach, a Democrat, was scheduled to consider 95 traffic citations Jan. 7. Brumbach’s request to not preside that day because she would be in Florida was not approved, according to the complaint.

Ahead of the scheduled hearings, she requested the citation files and allegedly marked 75 of them as either guilty in absentia, not guilty in absentia, or withdrawn, according to the complaint. The Judicial Conduct Board said her decisions in those cases did not become official.

Attempts to contact Brumbach and her attorney were unsuccessful.

The day before the hearings were scheduled, Brumbach told another judge in an email that “at least 95% of the files will have been completed by me without the necessity of coverage,” the complaint alleges.

When questioned, Brumbach said she only marked citations on “what she thought the outcome should be,” according to the complaint.

However, the complaint contends that her markings are identical to what is typically done when citations are heard on scheduled court dates, and that she planned to call her staff to record the judgments she had made ahead of time, and reschedule any hearings where the defendant appeared in person. Courts ultimately closed that day due to snow, and Brumbach was in Florida on Jan. 7, the complaint states.

She has been on administrative duty since Jan. 10, according to the complaint.

Ahead of further proceedings in the case, the conduct board also filed a petition for Brumbach to be suspended without pay due to the allegations.