WHEN PHYLLIS BECK won a seat on Superior Court in 1983, she became the first woman elected to a Pennsylvania appellate court.
This week, she - and her daughter - made history again.
When Alice Beck Dubow won the nomination for Philadelphia Common Pleas Court on Tuesday, she became the first daughter to follow her mother onto the bench in Pennsylvania - if not in the country.
Dubow won both the Democratic and Republican nominations, guaranteeing her a judgeship in November.
"I think it's really wonderful, not only at a societal level, that it shows women are advancing," Dubow said, "but for me, personally, it's just great.
"I've always admired my mother. She had a great influence on me."
The pair won't serve at the same time, since Phyllis retired at the end of 2005.
But another Beck on the bench can only be good news.
And there was even more good news in Tuesday's judicial results - at least for those of us who bemoaned the lack of women at the top of the ballot.
Lynn Marks, head of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, said this was "a very good year for women judicial candidates."
Three of the four Democratic nominees for Common Pleas Court are women - talented, dedicated, smart women:
Dubow, a former deputy general counsel at Drexel University who was deputy city solicitor under Mayor Rendell; Ellen Green-Ceisler, who proved her grit and guts as head of the Police Department's Integrity and Accountability Unit; and Linda Carpenter, who's been practicing law for 18 years.
Along with Michael Erdos, a graduate of Oxford and Yale Law School who's been an assistant D.A. for 10 years, they'll bring prodigious talent to the bench.
Not to mention new ideas.
Erdos, for instance, told me that he'd like to create a court-supervised mentoring program that would recruit community members to help rehabilitate ex-offenders.
Carpenter has advocated for court-provided day care so children don't have to witness unpleasant courtroom proceedings because their families can't afford baby sitters.
And both Dubow and Green-Ceisler said they'd welcome assignment to arguably the most important - and once considered the least glamorous - division of the judicial system: Family Court.
"I think about being able to get to the kids and the families early and turn peoples' lives around," Green-Ceisler said.
Those are heart-warming sentiments that reflect new attitudes toward Family Court, thanks in no small part to the ascendancy of women to the bench.
Judge Beck, whose prominence brings instant credibility to the many boards and commissions she has served on, is now chief financial officer of the non-profit Independence Foundation.
So, what advice did she give her daughter when she decided to run?
"About being on the bench? None. Strategy for the campaign? Five times a day."
Beck went to law school at a time when women were a rarity in professional schools. She graduated when Dubow was in second grade.
Beck's experience was a beacon to Dubow, the youngest of four children.
"She always seemed to love her work and got a lot of satisfaction out of being a judge," Dubow said.
"She's taken a lot of professional risks, and it gave me the courage to do this. I think I'm really lucky; mentors make a big difference in peoples' lives."
And this city is also lucky - to have Beck and Dubow as the first mother-daughter pair of judges in Pennsylvania. *
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