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
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:
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