How 39 Candidates for the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas Stack Up on LGBTQIA+ Issues

The Court of Common Pleas at the Allegheny County Courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Courts of Common Pleas are the trial courts of the State of Pennsylvania, and are where most major criminal and civil cases are heard.

There are 39 candidates for 9 openings on the Court of Common Pleas. That is a lot of people to wade through, research, and figure out whom to support.

Judges matter. They make life-defining decisions for children, youth, and adults. They help to shape the courtroom culture. They shape culture, period.

This is one type of analysis, considering the Allegheny County Bar Association rating as a measure of competency AND using three indicators of LGBTQIA+ cultural competency – the endorsements of Steel City Stonewall and the endorsement of the Gertrude Stein Political Club. Finally, I indicate if the candidate requested my own Q&A (not an endorsement) and if they returned it.


Public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judicial system can only be achieved when those participating see that all human experiences, including their own, are reflected in the decision makers. – Lisa Middleman


The Bar Association recommendation is important. I’d rather have a highly recommended candidate than someone considered unqualified but perhaps sympathetic to my political views any day of the week. That could be the fact that my wife is a lawyer. In various situations, we’ve both ended up in front of judges who were clearly not competent and it is truly frightening situation because there is no other political office to balance things out as in a legislative body.

Here are the assorted recommendations via the Allegheny County Bar Association

Highly Recommended

The candidate:

A. Exhibits pre-eminence in the law by way of outstanding legal ability and a wide range of experience, either in a specialized field of law or a more varied practice, and has a reputation in the legal community as standing at the top of his or her profession.

B. Possesses a reputation for the utmost integrity and temperament to excel as a judge of the court for which he/she is a candidate.

C. Exhibits outstanding citizenship by way of community and professional contributions.

D. Is an exceptional individual who will enhance or has enhanced the competence, dignity and public perception of the bench.

Recommended

The candidate possesses a reputation for the utmost integrity and the legal ability, experience, and temperament to excel as a judge of the court for which he or she is a candidate.

Not Recommended At This Time

The candidates legal ability, experience and reputation indicate that, at some future time in his or her legal career, he or she may have the potential to excel as a judge, but the candidate is not yet at that stage.

Unqualified

The candidate does not now possess and is not likely to acquire the ability, reputation or temperament necessary for a judicial position.

Clearly, there is more to consider when selecting judges. But this is one way to put a slice of that selection criteria all together that gives you a glimpse into their LGBTQIA+ cultural competency. I urge you to read the Q&A’s to learn more about these folks.

Learning more about their judicial views on LGBTQIA+ issues and community members is an important indicator beyond judicial temperament. Judges can have opinions. All judges have bias because they are human beings and that is not something that can just be summed up as temperament. Historically, it has been white cisgender heterosexual men deciding under guise of law that centers white cisgender heterosexual men. OMG, so many things to consider. I’m not even being facetious. Just honest that it is essential you do your homework because they folks will shape the lives of your family and neighbors for generations to come.

Also, in my Q&A’s you’ll see some great ideas on how to improve the court systems. Not my idea, just my questions.

These candidates received a recommendation from the bar association, at least one endorsement, and completed my Q&A.

This candidate received a recommendation from the bar association, completed by Q&A, but did not secure either endorsement.

This candidate received a recommendation from the bar association, secured at least one endorsement, but did not express interest in completing the Q&A for this blog.

  • Bruce Beemer

This candidate received a recommendation from the bar association, requested the Q&A from my blog, but have not yet returned it. They also have at least one endorsement. I remain optimistic.

  • Elliot Howsie

This candidate received a recommendation from the bar association requested the Q&A from my blog, but has not returned it. They have not been endorsed by either org.

  • Wrenna Watson

Five other candidates come highly recommended, but had neither endorsement nor completed my Q&A.

  • Tom Caulfield
  • Rosemary Crawford
  • Anthony DeLuca
  • George Heym
  • Daniel Konieczka
  • Andy Szefi

So these six folks have the capacity to be good judges, but there’s that question of why they didn’t seek or receive these endorsements or a Q&A? Perhaps they know that given our relatively small population in this region, our support is not needed and our priorities do not need to be addresses publicly.

Eight other candidates were ranked Recommended and had no endorsements. Does the distinction between Highly and Recommended matter?

Two candidates are deemed unqualified. Please don’t vote for them, famous family ties or not. The last thing we need are two more incompetent white cis het men on the bench, especially when we have so many fabulous options.

One thing I’ve learned with my own Q&A series is how most campaigns have it backwards – they think they are doing ME a favor by filling out the Q&A, that it is my responsibility to chase after them, or that it is fine to just not follow through. A campaign director recently admonished me for not making the Q&A information more available. I told her it was up on my blog on February 28 and anyone who subscribes to the blog would get that information. Or they could keep an eye out for it at that time of year.

How much work should we do to document the LGBTQ competency? Should I camp out at campaign HQs and plead? Should I make a donation to every single campaign to get a Q&A (nope)? In fact, I did make a donation to a non-judicial candidate who promised to complete the Q&A and guilt tripped me with the need to support their unique campaign. I was so pissed when they backed out. I will never make that mistake again. They don’t owe me anything, but they do owe you their time and attention.

Now I noticed that Giuseppe Rosselli showed up at a trans rights rally last weekend. That caught my eye. Perhaps others were there as well, but I didn’t notice them in the media coverage.

Finally, let me point out or remind you that Tiffany Sizemore is an openly bisexual Black woman. She’s recommended, endorsed, Q&A’d, and part of several progressive pairings. Does that alone give you cause to vote for her? Can you recall a time when other judicial candidates were openly anything?


Presently, on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, only 30% of judges are women; only four judges are people of color; only one judge is a woman of color and only two judges openly identify at LGBTQ. With nine open seats, we are at a moment in time where we can change how the bench looks and absolutely need to make our court more inclusive. It is one of the first steps to addressing implicit bias on the bench. It is also important because we need to re-establish our community’s trust in the court system and that is only possible if people coming before the court believe that there are judges on the bench who can identify with their authentic experiences, cultural practices and belief systems. – Sabrina Korbel


So I’ve got my nine in mind, how about you?

CandidateAllegheny County Bar Association ratingSteel City Stonewall EndorsementGertrude Stein EndorsementRequested PghLesbian Political Q&ACompleted PghLesbian Q&A
Bruce BeemerHighly RecommendedEndorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Dean BirdyNot Recommended at this timeNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Pauline Calabrese

Not Recommended at this time

Not endorsedNon/a
Tom CaulfieldHighly RecommendedNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
William CayeRecommendedNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Jason J. CervoneNot Recommended at this timeNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Jessel CostaUnqualifiedNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Alyssa CowanHighly RecommendedNot endorsedNot endorsedYesYes
Rosemary CrawfordHighly RecommendedNot endorsedNot endorsednoN/a
Marc DaffnerRecommendedNot endorsedNot endorsedNoN/a
Anthony DeLucaHighly RecommendedNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Richard Thomas ErnsbergerRecommendedNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Brian FlahertyUnqualifiedNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Ryan O. HemmingerNot Recommended at this timeNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Nicola Henry TaylorHighly RecommendedEndorsedEndorsedNon/a
George HeymHighly RecommendedNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Rick HoskingRecommendedNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Elliot HowsieHighly RecommendedEndorsedNot endorsedYes

Not yet to personal circumstances

Clint KelleyRecommendedNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Daniel KonieczkaHighly RecommendedNot endorsedNot endorsedNoN/a
Sabrina KorbelHighly RecommendedEndorsedEndorsedYesYes
Brian Samuel MalkinRecommendedEndorsedEndorsedNon/a
Lisa MiddlemanRecommendedEndorsedEndorsedYesYes
Joseph Patrick MurphyNot Recommended at this timeNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/c
Mik PappasNot Recommended at this timeNot endorsedEndorsedNon/a
Chuck PorterRecommendedNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Zeke RedikerNot Recommended at this timeNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Matt RogersRecommendedEndorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Giuseppe RosselliRecommendedNot endorsedEndorsedYesNot yet
Jimmy SheetsNot Recommended at this timeNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Beth Tarasi SinatraNot Recommended at this timeNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Tiffany SizemoreRecommendedEndorsedNot endorsedYesYes
Patrick SweeneyRecommendedNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Andy SzefiHighly RecommendedNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Albert VeverkaNot Recommended at this timeNot endorsedNot endorsedNon/a
Chelsa WagnerNot Recommended at this timeEndorsedEndorsedNon/a
Wrenna WatsonRecommendedNot endorsedNot endorsedYesNot yet

Ilan Zur Recommended Not endorsed Not endorsed No n/a

I suggest you also look at

This might feel overwhelming, but it is essential – consider that in Pennsylvania, every single right the LGBTQ community has came through the courts.

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