Courts: Philadelphia's Magisterial Mess

The front line of Philadelphia justice is manned by 28 magistrates, who handle traffic violators, hear civil cases involving $100 or less, summarily try minor criminals, and make the key decision on whether to hold suspects in serious crimes. Despite these responsibilities, only one magistrate is a lawyer, only nine are high school graduates, four never went beyond grade school, and one dropped out in sixth grade. Almost uniquely among modern U.S. cities, Philadelphia retains the magistrate's job as a payoff for ward politicians—and though the post pays only $12,500 a year, such are the hidden benefits that reformers...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!