Sunday, May 2, 2021

Allegheny County's slate of eight reform candidates for judge

In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, a group of judge candidates known as the “Slate of Eight” are running on a promise to scale back the reach of the criminal legal system and promote alternatives to incarceration in the 1.2 million person county, which includes Pittsburgh, reported The Appeal.

Their campaigns for seats on the County’s Court of Common Pleas—the primary trial court for criminal, civil, and family cases—could bring overwhelming change not only to that court but also to lower courts whose procedural rules are set by Common Pleas judges.

“This is an opportunity to be transformative in terms of how our courts look, how our courts feel for the public, and the types of policy reforms that can be implemented,” said Tiffany Sizemore, a professor at Duquesne University School of Law and former public defender who is part of the Slate of Eight. 

The Slate of Eight moniker comes from grassroots racial justice organizations that teamed up to decide who to endorse out of a pool of more than 30 candidates. The groups are planning to mount major volunteer mobilizations on behalf of their chosen candidates in the run-up to the May 18 Democratic primary. 

Nicola Henry-Taylor, Lisa Middleman, Mik Pappas, Zeke Rediker, Giuseppe Rosselli, Chelsa Wagner, and Wrenna Watson round out the slate; most are criminal defense lawyers or former public defenders. Organizers supporting the slate say they chose these candidates because of their commitment to reforms like reducing the use of cash bail, curtailing long sentences, diverting drug cases, and limiting the involvement of minors with the criminal legal system.

“The slate candidates all understand how mass incarceration is one of the leading issues in this country, that the issue of mass incarceration is a national embarrassment,” Wasi Mohamed, a founding organizer with UNITE, one of the organizations that endorsed the slate, told The Appeal: Political Report. 

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