State Supreme Court acted on petition filed Thursday by Judicial Conduct Board
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday ordered a Chester County magisterial district judge ensnared in the sweeping federal probe of alleged ticket-fixing in Philadelphia’s Traffic Court suspended without pay.
On Thursday afternoon, in response to a federal indictment, Chester County President Judge James P. MacElree II issued a brief order that said Magisterial District Judge Mark A. Bruno, one of 12 defendants in the case, had been relieved of his duties. Bruno, 50, of West Chester, is accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud, charges that expose him to up to 60 years in prison.
MacElree ordered Bruno to turn in his county-issued ID, keys, and cellphone and said Bruno cannot reenter his office or any Chester County magisterial district judge’s office, enter or modify any court records, or perform any duties associated with being a magisterial district judge. Bruno’s caseload will be absorbed by the rest of the magisterial district judges, MacElree wrote.
Only the state’s Supreme Court or Court of Judicial Discipline has the power to suspend a judge, an action that typically follows a recommendation from the state Judicial Conduct Board, which is charged with investigating alleged ethical misconduct by judges. The Judicial Conduct Board had recommended immediate suspension without pay for six judges, including Bruno.
The state Supreme Court issued three separate suspension orders. Besides Bruno, Judge Michael J. Sullivan and Judge Michael Lowry were stripped of their pay and “relieved of any and all judicial and administrative responsibilities as a judge.” The high court did not rule on petitions for Senior Judge Fortunato Perri Sr., Senior Judge H. Warren Hogeland, or Senior Judge Kenneth Miller.
Bruno, who has been out of town, is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday and will plead not guilty, said his attorney, Vincent P. DiFabio. He said Bruno worked no more than a handful of weeks a year in Philadelphia as a substitute judge, filling in during vacations and other absences.
The indictment contains minimal information about Bruno’s alleged conduct. It says Bruno requested assistance from Senior Traffic Court Judge Fortunato N. Perri Sr. to fix a ticket for “J.M” in January 2011. During a subsequent phone call, Perri took credit for “putting” Bruno in Traffic Court, the indictment said.