Q&A with Sabrina Korbel, Judge, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas

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. 

This is the fifteenth post of our election season series ‘Political Q&A’ with progressive candidates throughout Pennsylvania. Candidates can be anywhere in Pennsylvania running for any level of office. Please note that these are not necessarily endorsements, more of an opportunity for candidates to connect with the LGBTQ community, progressives neighbors, and others with an interest in Western Pennsylvania. If your candidate would like to participate, please contact us pghlesbian at gmail dot com.

I read about Sabrina’s campaign, then I saw an amazing commercial where she devoted a bit of time to promote resources for domestic violence survivors. As a former worker with Womansplace (now Center for Victims), that resonated with me. I was intrigued because candidates don’t typically invest precious moments of TV ads for non-campaign topics. As I read her response, I was struck by how broad her experience has been working with Womansplace these many years, how many different courts she’s appeared in, how expansive her knowledge is even though it is seemingly deeply embedded in domestic violence. I was very wrong about that. She lays out an exhaustive list of suggestions to reform the Courts. I encourage you to read on …

Your Name: Sabrina Korbel
Your Pronouns: she/her/hers
The Office You Seek: Judge, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas

How do you describe your identity? Cisgender white heterosexual woman

Please tell us about an underappreciated or little known asset in the local criminal  justice system. 

Undoubtedly,  this  would  be  our  Diversionary  Courts  where  diversionary  specialists  establish  plans  with  individuals  engaged  in  the  criminal  justice  system  prior  to  the  preliminary hearing and prior to arraignment.    These courts focus on connecting people to  resources  rather  than  punishment,  particularly  in  the  area  of  mental  health,  drug  and  alcohol treatment and domestic violence.   It is these types of restorative justice programs  that  should  be  expanded  and  prioritized in  our  courts  and  it  is  the  reason  why  the  candidates  running  for  Magistrate  should  get  amble  attention  as  well in  this  election.    A  second  asset  that  does  not  get much  attention  are  the  non-attorney legal  advocates who  appear in the criminal division each and every day to support victims of crime.  Domestic  violence legal  advocates  provide  free  and  confidential  support  to  help  domestic  violence  victims navigate the complexities of the legal system. The work of legal advocates includes  a  wide  range  of services  such  as  court  accompaniment,  safety  planning,  explanation  of  available  options,  direct  advocacy  as  the  case  progresses  through  the  legal  system,  community  education,  and  police  training.    In  2020,  the  Legal  Advocacy  Department  at  Women’s Center & Shelter provided services to over 3,000 victims of domestic violence.  I  recently had a conversation with a client who received services from a legal advocate from  Center for Victims who said to me, “the advocate meant everything to me, she stood quietly  next to me in court, lifting me up and supporting me.  She knew what I needed before I did  and she was the only reason I was able to make it through this process.”

Tell us about the first LGBTQ person you met and what impact they had on your life? 

In Intermediate School in the late 1980’s – I had a very good friend who identified as LGBTQ but never felt safe to come out publically.  While he had a small group of supportive friends that knew about his sexual orientation, the barriers and fears resulting from heterosexism  prohibited him from being open about his orientation.  Classmates routinely victimized him  and their words and actions over time undeniably affected his overall personal safety and wellbeing,  his  mental  health,  and  his  social  development as  a  teenager.    At  one point  in time,  I  remember  that  he tried  to  divert  this  treatment/attention from  classmates by  entering  into  a  dating  relationship  with a  heterosexual woman  in  the  grade  above  him.   This lasted only a few weeks before he ended the relationship.  After that, there were many  moments  where  this  friend  was  made  to  feel  guilt,  shame,  disgust  and  fear.

After  we  graduated from high school,  this  friend and  I lost  touch with each other for a bit of  time,  both  going  out  into  the  world  to  find  our  own  paths,  but  thanks  to  the  power  of  social  media  (there  are  a  few  things  it  is  positive  for),  we  reconnected  a  few  years  ago  and  it  became very clear that this  friend is in a loving and supportive same sex relationship and  he has peace in his life.  I think about this friend often, mostly because both of my teenage  children  are  around  the  same  age  as  he  and  I  were  when  he  faced  such  trauma.    As  a  mother of a teenager who identifies at LGBTQ,  I am well aware of the daily struggles that  youth face in their fight for safety and inclusivity.  I remember how difficult it was for my  friend.  My  teenager and  I spend much of our  time  together discussing  these barriers, my  teenager’s goal to be an advocate for open dialogue in schools and for laws and policies that  protect  LGBTQ  youth.    Lives  can  be  saved if  we  elect people  who  desire  to  improve  the  response  to  the LGBTQ community and prioritize change  through legislative, cultural and  social transformations.

Please tell me about your familiarity with the LGBTQ community in your district and  the region.  Based on this, what do you understand to be our top LGBTQ concerns and  priorities for the Court of Common Pleas? 

In my work as the Legal Director of the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, I  represent persons who are LGBTQ in protection from abuse, custody and divorce matters.   Through my representation, I strive to protect the rights of my clients and ensure that my  clients feel safe and engaged in their court cases while at the same time educating the court  about  the  many  barriers faced  by  the  LGBTQ  community  in  the  justice  system.    Where  possible in my  cases,  I educate  the  court about the  Power and  Control Wheel for LGBTQ  relationships, noting  that it  is  important  to  understand  the  unique  safety  concerns  of  victims who are LGBTQ.

In addition  to  providing  direct  representation to members  of  the  LGBTQ  community,  the  Women’s  Center & Shelter  of  Greater  Pittsburgh  established  a  position  for  an LGBTQIA+  Outreach  Advocate to  educate  those  working in my agency in  order  to improve  services  provided to LGBTQ communities in addition to making connections to victims within those  same populations.  Through this work, I have had the benefit of deepening my knowledge  about  issues  faced  by  LGBTQ  people  and  how  I  can  continue  to  improve  conditions  for  LGBTQ  survivors  as  an  ally  in  the  fight  to  end  domestic  violence.    In  2018,  I  applied  to  become  a  Commissioner  on  the  City  of  Pittsburgh  Gender  Equity  Commission  and  was  accepted on that Commission as a founding member.  Through this work, the Commission  has focused on efforts to make substantial changes to the City’s practices and procedures in  order  to  create equitable and  safe  spaces  for members  of  the  LGBTQ  community.   Also,  I  continue  to  financially  support  groups  that  support  LGBTQ  persons.      I  am  honored  to  support them through my personal efforts in addition to working for an agency that salutes  the  work  of  these  organizations  and  collaborates  with  the  leaders  within  these  organizations.

In my opinion, the top priority for LGBTQ community is for the court to understand how its  members, especially LGBTQ youth, are re-victimized over and over again in their lives and  the very important role judges play in ending that victimization.

I believe there are 28 candidates vying for 9 seats on the Court of Common Pleas.    That’s pretty overwhelming as a voter. Help readers understand how and why to  choose whom to support in this primary election. 

With  9  seats  open on the  Allegheny  County Court  of  Common  Pleas in  2021,  there is  an  opportunity to elect judges who can make a positive, substantial and lasting impact on the  way  our justice  system looks,  operates  and  engages with  the  people who  use  the  courts.   With  so many  candidates, it must  feel impossible  for  voters  to  sort  through who is most  qualified for this position.  When evaluating candidates, voters should remember that first  and foremost, judges are public servants.   Judges are elected to serve the true customers of  the  court – the  people who litigate  their  cases  there and judges  should  do  this equitably,  compassionately  and  with  empathy  – always  treating  people  with  dignity  and  respect,  striving to recognize the uniqueness of each litigant’s individual needs, authentic story and  life circumstances.  Judges should work hard and commit all their efforts to ensuring open  and  equal  access  to justice,  even  when it inconveniences  them.  Judges  should  be leaders  and  should  use  their  positions  to  make  systemic  changes  and  establish  and  improve equitable  practices and  policies  through  collaboration with  community  partners who are  doing the real work on the ground in our neighborhoods and our communities and who are  most familiar with the needs of the people accessing our justice system.  While it may take  some additional time and effort, I hope that voters look to candidates whose prior records  reflect  a  commitment  to  collaboration with  community  leaders, continuous  growth  and  improvement of our justice system and service to the public.

My work as the Legal Director of the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh has  provided me with just that type of training and experience. I have devoted my entire legal  career to providing free representation to survivors of domestic violence and their children  in the trial and appellate courts. Through this work, I have stood with, and given a voice to,  victims  who  face  daily  violence,  housing  and  transportation  obstacles,  impediments  to  employment,  financial  burdens,  mental  health  crises  and  their  own  involvement  in  the  criminal justice system. I have witnessed the courage that it takes for individuals to engage  in a confusing, expensive and overwhelming court system – often left feeling shut out and  without  access  to  justice.  Most  importantly,  I  have  experienced  how  fair,  unbiased  and  compassionate judges, with the right temperament, can empower an individual and launch  them on their own authentic path to success.

I  am Highly  Recommended  by  the  Allegheny  County  Bar  Association – the  highest  rating  you can receive — and I am running as a candidate for the Court of Common Pleas because I  believe  that  through  my  experience  and  training  as  a  hard  working  legal  aid  attorney,  I  have  developed  the  type  of  compassion,  temperament and  fairness  that will improve  the  Court of Common Pleas and make Allegheny County a model judicial system.

In my nearly twenty years of practice at the Women’s Center and Shelter Civil Law Project,  I  have  gained  experience  and  training  as  a  trauma-informed  attorney  who  has  managed  and litigated  over  7,000  cases in  the  areas  of  family law  and  domestic  violence.  I  handle  cases in court on a daily basis and I know firsthand that we have a great deal of work to do  to  reform  the  court  and  restore  our  community’s  trust  in  the  justice  system.  During  my career,  I  have  fought  alongside  countless  community  partners  to  prioritize  systemic  changes  that  have made  the  courts more  transparent, accessible and  safe  for  our  friends  and  neighbors who  are  the most  resource  burdened.  I  believe  that when we make  these  types of changes, we improve the justice system for everyone.

While I have valued my time as Legal Director at the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater  Pittsburgh and the impact I have had in the individual lives of survivors and their children,  I am excited about the opportunity to take my experience and passion to the bench where I  would turn to community partners – people and agencies that have been doing the hard and  real work in our neighborhoods, to collaborate on best practices and focus on championing  change that would benefit the true customers of the court, such as:

•  Returning  our  court  to  the  community  by  expanding  community-based  court  locations  that serve individuals within their own neighborhoods.

• Expanding the use of remote services to individuals using the court to reduce the burden  of transportation costs, missed work time and childcare in order to have access to justice.

•  Improving  the court’s customer service and  transparency by (1) creating and providing  easy  to  understand  written materials and  videos  to make  court less  confusing  and more  accessible  for  litigants;  (2)  expanding  existing  programs  such  as  the  pro  se  clinic  where  self- represented parties can obtain assistance with  filing cases in court and creating new  programs  such  as  remote  filing  services  for  protection  from  abuse  cases;  (3)  improving  communication between the different Divisions of the court so that court services are more  holistic and unified which should create more efficiency with cases and less continuances  or time spent in court.

• Ensuring  that  our court’s policies and procedures are inclusive and gender and  racially  equitable. Mandate that all members of the court participate in regular training on implicit  bias and equity, diversity and inclusion.

•  Prioritizing  criminal  justice  reform  and  use  the  position  of  judge  to  collaborate  with  community  leaders  and  state  and  local  legislators  to  make  real  and  substantive  changes  while at the same time turning to restorative justice measures in lieu of incarceration.

•  Focusing  on  reform  beyond  criminal  justice  so  that  all  Divisions  of  the  court  establish  practices that eliminate implicit bias, racism and access to justice obstacles for low-income  and  resource burdened individuals and people  of color – those individuals who are most  negatively impacted by the court’s current practices.

• Creating additional specialized courts in accordance with national standards and models  where judges become experts and hear cases in specific areas  that have daily impacts on  families and children, such as in the area of domestic violence.

•  Implementing  a  Trauma-Informed  culture  within  the  court  and  require  that  all  court  policies and procedures be conducted in a Trauma-Informed manner.

Within this crowded field, there are a number of incredibly qualified candidates running for  the Court of Common Pleas. With the 2021 election, we have the opportunity to elect judges  who will make  our court more diverse, inclusive and  focused  on judicial  reform  that will  positively  improve  an  individual’s  experience  in  the  justice  system  and  ensure  that  everyone’s rights are honored and protected.

The Court of Common Pleas is divided into four categories: Civil, Criminal, Family,  and Orphan. Help our readers understand the distinctions. 

The  Civil  Division handles  disputes  between  litigants  including  but  not  limited  to  landlord/tenant,  breach  of  contract,  personal  injury,  property  damage,  employment  law,  enforcement  of  labor  arbitration  awards,  land  use  appeals,  election  law  disputes  and  appeals  from  the  Magisterial  District  Court  that  are  not  criminal  in  nature.    Generally  judges  in  this  Division  either  direct  a  party  to  take  a  certain  action  or  to  pay  monetary  damages.

The  Criminal  Division handles  cases  where  the  Commonwealth  of  Pennsylvania  files  criminal charges under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code against an individual.  The Office of  the District Attorney represents the Commonwealth’s interest and individuals charged with  crimes  have  the  right  to  have  an  attorney  assigned  to  represent  them.    Generally,  these  criminal charges, which range from simple misdemeanors to serious felonies, are filed and  first addressed at the Magisterial District Court and then later transferred to the Criminal  Division.

The Family Division handles cases related to marriage, parents and children.  In Allegheny  County,  this  Division  is  divided  into  the  Juvenile  Division  and  the  Adult  Division.    In  Juvenile  Court,  judges  hear  cases  related  to  a  parent’s  inability  to  care  for  the  children  (dependency court) and cases where minors have been charged with a crime (delinquency  court).    In  the  Adult  Division,  judges  handle  cases  related  to  divorce,  child  custody,  child/spousal support and protection from abuse.

The Orphans  Division handles cases related to the matters of minors (such as adoptions  and  terminating  a  parent’s  rights),  the  estates  or  wills  of  people  who  have  passed  away,  and  care  of  people  who  no  longer  have  the  capacity  to  care  for  or  make  decisions  for  themselves.

I have managed and provided legal representation to victims of domestic violence in over  7000  cases  in  the  Family  Division,  including  participation  in  negotiations,  motions,  hearings,  and  trials  before  Judges,  Masters  and  Hearing  Officers.    Many  of  these  matters  have related cases in the Criminal Division allowing me to gain extensive knowledge of the  criminal justice system and areas of needed reform. In the Orphans Division, I have handled  adoption cases.  I do not practice in the Civil Division, but I do oversee cases as a Hearing  Officer  (like  a  judge)  for  the  Allegheny  County  Retirement  Board.    This  experience  has  given me the knowledge and temperament needed to take the bench and make a positive  impact on Allegheny County families.

Your professional life has been focused on survivors of domestic violence and their  children. Why do you want to move from direct legal practice to a seat on the bench? 

For nearly  twenty years,  I have worked  tirelessly to ensure  that  the voices of victims and  their children are heard in our justice system.  I believe that this work, though collaborative  efforts, has lead to a number of successful systemic changes such as the creation of a model  program  for  victims  seeking  protection  through  the  court.    My  time  providing  direct  representation  has  been  the  best  part  of my legal  career, my  clients are incredibly  brave  and resourceful and it has been an honor  to stand with  them in court and give a voice  to  their stories.  Through that representation, I have seen the need for further change in our  justice  system in  order  to truly meet the needs  of  our most  resource burdened  residents  and despite all best efforts made thus far, I feel that the only way to achieve this change is from  the  bench.    Increasing  and  expanding  access  to  justice  in  all  ways  is  something  I  deeply value.  I know that the way to make true substantive change is from the inside and  so that is why I am seeking an opportunity to become a judge, where I can collaborate with  community leaders to create a space where everyone  feels  that  they are valued, heard as  individuals, and has access to a supportive and engaged justice system.

When  your  career  has  been  so  focused  on  one  population  or  issue,  how  do  you  develop the skills necessary to adjudicate other types of cases? 

I  have  been  privileged  to  stand with  victims  of  domestic  violence  as  they  negotiate  their  own  safety  under life  threatening  conditions  and  ask  the  court  to  provide  protection  for  them and their children.  While my practice has focused on a certain population, the cases I  handle involve diverse and complex family law matters.  Historically, newly elected judges  begin  their  career  on  the  bench  in  the  Family  Division.    We  know  that  judges  in  this  Division  handle the  largest  volume  of  cases,  hear  over 4000  protection  from  abuse  proceedings annually, and preside over cases that involve domestic  violence no less  than 30%  of  the  time.   Recent  evaluations conducted  by  the  National  Council  of  Juvenile  and  Family Court Judges and the Center for Court Innovation in 2016 highlighted the need for  judges who can specialize in the area of domestic violence.  Additionally, representing one  of our county’s most resource burdened populations for nearly twenty years has provided  me  with  the  skills  that  will  allow  me  to  adjudicate over  many  types  of  cases compassionately and empathetically because the skills I have acquired apply holistically to  all areas of the court and not just to a specific population.

I  have  seen  a  desperate  need  for  judges  to  serve  as first  responders  with  regard  to  connecting  people  to  supportive  resources  at  all  levels  in their  legal  matters.   We  know  there  is  a  lack  of  mental  health,  drug  and  alcohol,  employment  and  family  resources  available  to  people  entering  our  justice  system.    We especially  see  this  is  in  the  Family  Division where resources are unevenly distributed based on a person’s access to financial  support.  It has always been a priority for me to serve as a leader in expanding funding and  access to these resources and to use my the skills and knowledge to ensure that people are  connected to easily accessible resources where they need additional support in their lives.   I would continue  to connect  to networks  that  I have created within our communities and bring  people  into  the  court  that  have  the  best  information  on  how  we  can  serve the  residents and families of Allegheny County.  The benefit of working for a law project within  a  social  service  agency  is  that  I  have  seen  the  positive  impact  on  individuals receiving  holistic support without being victimized for what happened in their lives.  We desperately  need judges who, like myself, prioritize this and who focus on the facts of the case as they  relate  to  the  specific individuals  appearing  before  them, independent  of  other  cases  that  they may have heard in the past and with a clear understanding that people face complex  decisions  based  on  the  facts  and  resources  that  are  available  to them  at  that moment in  time.

Second, we need judges who are trauma informed and culturally competent.  This does not  mean  that  as  a judge  I would identify with  each  person’s  authentic lived  experience,  but  would  ask,  listen and  learn  more about  people’s  background.    It  does  mean  that  I  will  recognize my bias, value our differences and accept that a person’s lived experience affects  how they see the world and make decisions for themselves and their families.  Also, I have  always appreciated that most people who access the justice system have experienced some  level of trauma and they need to feel safe to share their stories, that their voice is heard in  the courtroom and that they are engaged in their legal case.  As a judge,  I will work to be  empathetic  and  continue  to  use  and  develop my  twenty  years  of  training  to  provide  a trauma informed approach and to strive to be culturally competent.

Finally, we  have an accessibility barrier  to justice and a lack  of judicial  understanding  of  these barriers.  So many litigants appear in court without an attorney.  A significant part of  my career has been negotiating and working with unrepresented parties.  When a person  appears  before  a  judge,  they  should  leave  feeling  that  their  voice  was  heard,  that  they  understood the outcome and the reasons for that outcome and that they clearly know what  the next steps are in their legal matter. This information should always come directly from  the judge.  Presently,  in  all  four  of  our  Divisions  in  the  court,  there  are  many  situations  where parties appear for their case, but never actually see or speak to their judge. I firmly  believe  that it is  the judge’s responsibility to work to expand access  to information about  the justice system and to always deliver the outcome and message from the court directly  to the parties involved in the case, each and every time the case comes before them.

What changes could be made in Allegheny County Courts to better support survivors  while upholding the rights of the accused?

For  me,  this  again  begins  with increased  access  to  resources for  both  victims  and  perpetrators  of  violence  and  also  an  understanding  of  the  role  of trauma  in  the  lives  of  survivors and  their children.  Victims of  violence need  to  see court as a place where it is  safe to share their stories without being re-victimized – not just because it matters for their  own healing, but  also  for  future  victims  of  violence  to  feel  like  they  will  be  treated  with  dignity and respect.  We need judges who are trauma-informed and who are committed to  continued training on trauma and domestic violence.  Perpetrators of violence need to also  see  the court as a place where  they will not  be dismissed  but will  be given  the  option  to  take  accountability  for  their  actions  and  change  their  behavior  so  that  they  can  have  healthy  relationships  with  their  children  and  with  other  members  of  society.    In  my practice,  I  rarely work with  victims who  seek “punishment”  for  their  abusers,  but  rather  simply want the violence to stop.

While in the Criminal Divisions the accused have the right to counsel, the same is not true  in other Divisions of our court.  In the past, there was a push in the Legislature to expand the civil right to counsel.  Judges should take a leadership role and work with state leaders  to  expand  access  to  affordable  or  free  legal  representation where  possible.    People  need  good  and  available  access  to  legal  advice  and  information  about  their  cases  in  order  to  make  informed  decisions  and  ensure  that  their  rights  are  protected.    While  the  Family  Division presently has a self-help clinic, it cannot possibly meet the needs of everyone; as a  judge  I  would  focus  my  energy  on  expanding  programs  like  these  to  ensure  increased  access to justice.

Additionally,  we  need more  restorative justice  programs.    In  the last  few months,  I  have  collaborated  on  a  project  to  bring  batterers  intervention  programs  (presently  offered  in  criminal  cases)  into  the  Family  Division  as  a  way  to  connect  people  to  help  that  will  improve their relationships.  Programs such as “BIP” benefit both victims and abusers and  most importantly  their  children.    These  are  exactly  the  types  of  resources  and  programs that we need to expand and prioritize.

What percentage of clients of the Women’s Center and Shelter Civil Law Project are  LGBTQIA+? 

Because identifying as LGBTQIA+ is not a requirement to receive representation  from the  Women’s Center and Shelter Civil  Law Project  (i.e. WC&S-CLP  serves  victims  of  domestic  violence  who  are  at  or  below  a  certain  income  level),  the  Law  Project  does  not  require  clients to indicate their sexual orientation for statistical purposes and thus it is not possible  to  share  a  percentage  of  the  clients  who  are  LGBTQIA+.    Despite  this,  we  know  from  information  shared  by  individual  clients  that  we  are  assisting  many  people  who  are  LGBTQIA+ and I am extremely thankful to work for an agency that supports the LGBTQIA+  community in so many ways.

How does intersectionality inform your work? 

According  to  statistics,  at  least  one  in  four  women  and  one  in  nine  men  are  victims  of  domestic violence.  However, domestic violence does not impact just a certain category of  people.  We know that victims come from all races, ages, sexual orientations, religions and  socioeconomic  backgrounds.    Despite  this,  society’s  stereotypes  effect  how  victims  are  viewed which in  turn can create hurdles and barriers as  to how victims are connected  to  services and safety.  Because of this, every aspect of my work focuses on intersectionality,  meeting victims where they are and educating those in the justice system on how domestic  violence  cannot  just  be  viewed  as  a  single  issue  but  instead  as  a  comprehensive  and  complex  matter  that  needs  to  focus  on  all  the  parts  of  someone’s  unique  individual  situation.  This is the reason why the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh has  focused  on looking at and better understanding  systemic  racism including how people  of  color  access  safety  through  the  justice  system,  it  is  why  the  agency  has  established positions such as our LGBTQIA+ Outreach Advocate and created a team of advocates who  work with  the refugee, immigrant and limited English proficiency communities.   It is also  why  I have worked so hard  to prioritize  funding  for and  the  formation  of  our  Immediate  Needs  Coordinators  or  our  “INC”  team  who  works  with  victims  to  connect them to  resources throughout our communities that help with economic assistance, job placement  and  training,  transportation,  child  care,  housing,  etc.    We  know  that  when  a  domestic  violence victim is leaving a relationship, it is  the most dangerous  time  for  them and  their  safety is a priority, but we also know that they face far-reaching barriers to seeking safety  because of their race, age, sexual orientation, religion, culture and socioeconomic status.  I  have worked and we must continue to work to eliminate stereotypes, and look at problems  through an intersectional lens in  order  to  fully meet  the  comprehensive  needs  of  victims  that are unique to their specific situations and backgrounds.

Why does it matter that we have representation in race, gender, ethnicity, and other  identities as judges? 

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.

Why did you agree to complete this Q&A? 

Since starting to follow Sue Kerr’s writings on social media and the PghLesbian.com, it has  always been clear to me that there is a deep devotion to the distribution of pertinent and  relevant  information  about  issues  and  concerns  that  are  priorities  for  the  LGBTQIA+  community.  Unfortunately, judicial elections rarely garner the level of attention that they  deserve, which is alarming because of the enormous impact courts can have on each of our  lives.  Over the next few weeks, voters will be reviewing a ballot with 39 candidates listed  for the Court of Common Pleas.  I appreciate Sue’s efforts to bring a much needed focus to  this race (and other important judicial races) and I am grateful to have this opportunity to  communicate with voters about information about my career, my reasons for running and my goals for reforming the courts.

Tell me about your endorsements and supporters. 

I  am  very  proud  of  the  variety  in  our  endorsements  and  supporters  which  include community  leaders,  activists,  and  the  following  committees,  organizations  and  elected  officials:

Endorsed By:

The Allegheny County Democratic Committee

Elected Officials:

Senator Lindsey Williams, Honorary Chair

The Chartier’s Valley Democratic Chairs Org. Eastern Regional Democratic Organization (ERDO)

The South Park Democratic Committee

The Democrats of Dormont

Carnegie Democratic Committee

Monroeville Democratic Committee

Plum Borough Democratic Committee

Allegheny County Democratic Black Caucus

The 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club

Steel City Stonewall Democrats

Gertrude Stein Political Club

The Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council

The Pittsburgh Building Trades

Laborer’s District Council of Western Pennsylvania IUPAT District Council 57

Iron Workers Local 3

AFGE #1916

Steamfitters Local 449

AFSCME Council #84

Teamsters Joint Council No. 40

Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers

Pennsylvania State Education Association SEIU Local 668

Plumbers Local 27

Boilermakers Local 154

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85

Recommended By:

The Young Democrats of Allegheny County

NOBO Progressives

Treasurer John Weinstein, Honorary Chair

Senator Jay D. Costa

Senator James Brewster

Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Representative Sara Innamorato

Representative Austin Davis

Representative Dan Miller

Representative Anita Astorino Kulik

Representative Dan Deasy

Representative Jessica Benham

Representative Ed Gainey

Representative Jake Wheatley

Representative Nick Pisciottano

Allegheny County Sheriff Bill Mullen City Controller Michael Lamb

President City Council Theresa Kail-Smith

City Councilman Anthony Coghill

City Councilwoman Erika Strassburger

City Councilman Corey O’ Connor

County Councilman Bob Palmosina

County Councilman John Palmiere

County Councilman Paul Zavarella

Is there anything you’d like to add? 

Historically,  new  judges  start  their  careers  in  the  Family  Division.   While  there  are  nine  openings, it is likely that at least five of the new judges will be placed in the Family Division.   Most judicial candidates, if not all the candidates currently running prioritize the need for criminal  justice  reform  and  many  campaigns,  including  mine,  have  set  forth  goals for  achieving  this  reform.   However,  it  is  important  to  also  consider  candidates  whose  legal  backgrounds  include  work  in  the  Family  Division  and  with  our  families  in  Allegheny  County.  If we as voters fail to do this, we are overlooking the need for holistic changes that  will expand access  to justice  for everyone and we are doing a disservice  to all  those who will access the Family Division which handles the highest volume of cases and touches so  many families in Allegheny County.

Where can readers find your campaign on social media? How can they donate to your campaign? 

Website: www.SabrinaForJudge.com 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TeamSabrina2021 Twitter: @SabrinaKorbel 

Instagram: SabrinaKorbelForJudge

Thank you, Sabrina.


Other Q&A’s in this election cycle series. You can read previous cycle Q&A’s here.

  1. Q&A With Bill Peduto, Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh
  2. Q&A With Ed Gainey, Candidate for Mayor City of Pittsburgh
  3. Q&A With Raymond Robinson, Candidate for Magisterial District Judge 05-02-42
  4. Q&A with Bethani Cameron, Candidate for City Council District 4
  5. Q&A with Hilary Wheatley Taylor, Candidate for Magisterial District Judge for District 05-2-19
  6. Q&A with Connor Mulvaney, Candidate for City Council District 4
  7. Q&A with Judge Derwin Rushing, Candidate for Magisterial District Judge 5-2-40
  8. Q&A with Alyssa Cowan, Candidate for Court of Common Pleas Judge
  9. Q&A with Anita Prizio, Allegheny County Councilor District 3
  10. Q&A With Tiffany Sizemore, Candidate for Judge, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge
  11. Q&A with Robert Disney, Candidate for Bellevue Borough Council
  12. Q&A with Cheryl Patalano, Candidate for Northgate School Board of Directors
  13. Q&A with Laura Pollanen, Candidate for Bellevue Borough Council
  14. Q&A with Lisa Middleman, Candidate for Court of Common Pleas
  15. Q&A with Sabrina Korbel, Judge, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas

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