Daughter joins father on Common Pleas bench

Dad administers her oath of office

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For the first time in Allegheny County history, a daughter yesterday joined her father on the Common Pleas Court bench.

Thirty years after his own swearing-in ceremony, Senior Judge Gerard M. Bigley swore in his daughter, Kelly Eileen Bigley, who will serve in the juvenile section of Family Court.

The 42-year-old criminal and family practice lawyer fought tears as she raised her hand to take the oath of office.

"You can do this, Kelly!" her 68-year-old father said, prompting laughter from friends, family and dignitaries assembled in the City-County Building.

After her husband, Richard France, and children Nicholas France, 8, and Nina France, 5, helped her on with her robes, the new Judge Bigley told the crowd she was humbled.

"One thing about the Bigleys, we all stick together. I couldn't ask to be in a better gene pool," she said.

Since 1788, several father-and-son pairs have served together on the bench, including Judge Robert E. Colville and Judge Robert J. Colville in Allegheny County. A husband-wife pair sit on the bench in Philadelphia. The only other father-daughter pairing officials at the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts knew of was Senior Judge Anthony J. DeFino and his daughter Judge Rose Marie DeFino-Nastasi, who are Common Pleas Court judges in Philadelphia.

In another swearing-in yesterday, Common Pleas Judge Cheryl L. Allen became the third African-American to serve on the state Superior Court.

She was sworn in by the second African-American on the court, Senior Judge Justin M. Johnson, who has served since 1980. The first was Judge Theodore O. Spaulding.

Judge Allen ran on the Republican ticket after she was defeated as a Democrat in 2003 for a seat on the state Supreme Court. She told assembled friends, family and officials in the Supreme Court courtroom that the Superior Court win was hard-fought and the campaign was low-budget. She relied on prayer and her faith in God, she said: "We had to assume the battle stance, which was on our knees."

Gabrielle Banks can be reached at gbanks@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1370.


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