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Allegheny County Common Pleas Court judge candidate Behrend Ernsberger cites variety of cases handled in court

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Barbara Behrend Ernsberger is a candidate for Allegheny County Common Pleas judge. Ernsberger has been in private practice for more than 30 years, and has worked on cases in civil, family and orphan's court.

Barbara Behrend Ernsberger

Age: 61.

Residence: Shadyside.

Family: Husband and three children.

Education: Bachelor's degree, University of Pittsburgh; law degree, Duquesne University.

Background: In private practice for more than 30 years handling cases in civil, family and orphans' court through the firm Behrend & Ernsberger, Downtown.

County Bar Association rating: Recommended.

Common Pleas judges serve 10-year terms and then face a yes-or-no retention vote. The salary this year is $173,271.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 9:51 p.m.

Barbara Behrend Ernsberger believes in the axiom that justice delayed is justice denied.

While representing people who sued the life insurance industry with consumer fraud complaints, she said attorneys and judges delayed cases for 15 years while arguing over scheduling, evidence and settlement issues.

“My function was to be close to the clients, and it disturbed me to see this going on,” said Ernsberger, 61, of Shadyside, one of 13 candidates for Allegheny County Common Pleas judge.

Ernsberger, a former Pittsburgh Democratic Party chair and Planning Commission member, touts her varied experience in trying cases in civil, family and orphans' court as her qualifications for the bench.

“You need judges that ... have had exposure to a lot of issues,” she told the Tribune-Review.

Through her family-run Downtown firm, Ernsberger says she handled cases of growing importance to average people: fights over wills and power-of-attorney, cases involving veterans or leases with companies looking to drill for gas in the Marcellus shale.

“If you haven't gotten some understanding of that, you're in trouble,” she said of the gas leases.

Ernsberger is a Pittsburgh native who went to work for her family at 12, helping to prepare billing sheets on Saturdays.

On the issues:

What's the top issue facing the court? “The time delays. And in the Family Division, the abundance of custody issues. People need more help than they're getting.”

How do you keep political donations by lawyers from affecting decisions from the bench? “These records are public, and someone can raise concerns if they have them.”

Should judges hire family members? “I don't think that's generally advisable. I think you're better off hiring from outside.”

David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or

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