A judge has sued the state Supreme Court, claiming he was unconstitutionally suspended without pay or benefits after being federally indicted — but not yet tried or convicted — in connection with a Philadelphia Traffic Court corruption probe into ticket fixing.
West Chester Magisterial District Judge Mark A. Bruno filed a civil rights suit in federal court last week against the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and six court justices, claiming he was denied his right to due process when it came to the suspension decision, which was allegedly made without any notice, adjudicatory hearing or opportunity for Bruno to respond.
The suit claims any disciplinary action against Bruno would fall under the purview of the Judicial Conduct Board, not the state Supreme Court. It alleges the Supreme Court issued a per curiam order dated Feb. 1 – three days after Bruno was indicted – relieving Bruno of his judicial and administrative duties.
"Judge Bruno found out about the order from news reports since he was never served with any request by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, or given any opportunity to respond since the court did not issue any rule-to-show cause," the complaint reads.
Bruno said he received the order in the mail Feb. 5.
Bruno, who occasionally presided over Traffic Court cases while judges were away on training, was indicted in late January for allegedly asking Judge Fortunato Perri to fix a traffic ticket received by a friend and adjudicating another ally's citation. Bruno is charged with wire and mail fraud, conspiracy, and aiding and abetting.
"A review of the federal indictment ... alleges very little involvement by Judge Bruno," the complaint reads. "Judge Bruno has emphatically denied his guilt and plead not guilty and will vigorously oppose these charges at the criminal trial."
The suit says since there is "a good possibility" the complex Traffic Court trial won't commence until after January of next year, Bruno is precluded from having a timely opportunity to clear his name and earn wages again.
"Judge Bruno has been severely deprived since he has lost his sole source of income and now must rely on his wife's income as a teacher in the Catholic school system," the complaint reads. "He is unable to pay his bills and has had great difficulty finding other work because of his judicial position and also because of this pending indictment."
Bruno, who wants his job back, is seeking an injunction and restraining order compelling the Supreme Court to reverse the suspension pending the trial outcome or to provide a timely hearing and prove the Court has the authority to take disciplinary measures against Bruno. He's also seeking back pay, benefits and attorney fees.