On Tuesday, March 12, 2024, the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline issued a ruling in the case involving Judge Marissa Brumbach of the Philadelphia Municipal Court. The court found that Judge Brumbach violated a single rule requiring diligent and competent performance of duties, but dismissed other more serious claims made against her.

The case stemmed from an incident in January 2022 where Judge Brumbach ruled on 95 traffic citation cases one day before the scheduled hearing. Typically, in traffic court, defendants do not appear and judges make rulings based on the information in citations. Judge Brumbach had informed her staff that any defendants who did show up would have their cases continued to another date. She also asked a prosecutor to review the cases and withdraw any that were inappropriate to decide without the defendant present.

Judge Brumbach had made the advance rulings because she had planned to be out of town on the scheduled hearing date. She put in a request for that day off in November 2021 but did not receive a response until January 6th, denying her request. In an email, she asked the presiding judge if there was an alternate plan but was told she needed to handle her caseload that day. Ultimately the court was closed due to inclement weather so the rulings were not used.

The Judicial Conduct Board, which reviews claims of ethical misconduct against judges, had alleged Judge Brumbach’s actions were serious violations. However, the disciplinary court disagreed, finding her plan was not intended to abuse power or for personal gain. It said communication problems between Judge Brumbach and the presiding judge contributed to the situation. Ultimately no defendants’ rights were violated since the rulings were only for cases where individuals failed to appear.

The court acknowledged both judges should have handled the leave request and notification of the alternative plan differently. Going forward, this ruling provides guidance on properly handling advance rulings in similar circumstances to avoid ethical concerns.

Since 2018, Marissa Brumbach has been serving as a judge in the Philadelphia Municipal Court in Pennsylvania, and her present term will conclude on January 7, 2030. She won re-election in the retention election on November 7, 2023.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.