Normally, elections for local judicial races don’t get a lot of attention. But Pittsburgh’s East End is filled with buzz, thanks to independent candidate Mik Pappas challenging incumbent Democrat Ron Costa Sr. Pappas says judges should play a more active role combating inequities in the criminal-justice system, while Costa is touting his experience.
Ron Costa Sr.
Bio: A Democrat from Morningside who has served as the district’s judge since 1992. Cousin of Pennsylvania state Rep. Dom Costa (D-Stanton Heights) and state Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills). Costa’s campaign refused to supply answers to some questions.
Monetary Bail: City Paper reached out several times to Costa’s campaign for comment. After initially agreeing to provide information for this story, the campaign later refused.
Community Interaction: Costa cooks and prepares meals for senior citizens every Wednesday. Campaign manager Casey Mullen says he’s “extremely active in the community.”
Landlord-Tenant Disputes: According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mullen said the courtroom “is not where we expect to pass legislation and policy” and that Costa understands how to uphold “the judicial branch.”
Friends and Supporters: Endorsed by Allegheny County Democratic Committee. Finished his primary campaign with $24,330 cash on hand.
Bio: Civil-rights attorney raised in East Liberty and currently living in Highland Park. Has defended free-speech and LGBTQ-rights cases as an attorney and has a background in community organizing for social-justice causes. Served as public-policy director for former state Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Highland Park) for six years.
Monetary Bail: Believes cash bail should remain for violent offenders, but shouldn’t be administered to defendants of economic crimes, like drug offenses. Wants to work with stakeholders to bolster pro-bono services to increase legal assistance to lower-income defendants.
Community Interaction: Pappas says a bigger community presence can help “restore faith in the justice system.” Wants to use his role as a judge to mediate minor disputes that might not necessitate court proceedings “while still following the judicial code of ethics and maintaining independence.”
Landlord-Tenant Disputes: Says district judges can play an important role in housing disputes since landlords tend to have the upper hand in eviction cases. Would apply more leniency to vulnerable populations facing eviction, like single mothers, seniors, and addicts in recovery.
Friends and Supporters: Endorsed by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Nina Turner, of grassroots progressive group Our Revolution, said in a press release endorsing Pappas: “The best way to end mass incarceration and expedite criminal-justice reform is to elect justices at the local level that are committed to positive change.”