MEDIA COURTHOUSE — It was standing room only Friday morning in the John V. Diggins Ceremonial Courtroom, where four new faces joined the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas in a historic swearing-in ceremony often fraught with emotion and never lacking for applause.

Nusrat Rashid of Chester Township, Kelly Eckel of Upper Providence, Stephanie Klein of Wallingford and Rick Lowe of Middletown already made history in November when they became the first Democrats elected to the Delaware County bench, but the celebratory air of Friday’s induction ceremony showed the enthusiasm of supporters had not waned in the intervening months.

Joining the Democrats was Republican Linda Cartisano of Chester, who was also overwhelmingly retained for a second 10-year term by voters in November.

Rashid, a graduate of Temple University School of Law, was clearly the main draw for a large swathe of the audience. As Assistant District Attorney Erica Parham noted in her introductory remarks, Rashid is the first black woman elected to the bench in the county and the first Muslim elected to any judicial position in the state.

“This moment is not just about Nusrat,” Parham said. “It is about what she represents to this county.”

Parham, choking slightly with emotion, said there is hopefully a little girl with brown skin out there who sees Rashid for what is possible, adding that her election represents an important step to increase public trust in the judicial system for the county at large.

“On a personal note, I am so proud for Nusrat because diversity and inclusion in our legal profession and our judicial system do not just happen,” said Parham. “We need our community to accept the importance of these precedents, but most importantly, we need qualified people with diverse backgrounds to step up, to do the necessary work and to weather the challenges, and Nusrat, you’ve done that.”

“I have served my entire career with a focus on providing equal access not only to the courts, but more importantly to justice; justice for everyone who steps into a courtroom, who comes with a problem that needs to be solved with solutions that need to be found,” said Rashid, a lawyer of 20 years who had maintained a practice in Chester since 2010. “It is just overwhelming to me that the citizens of Delaware County deemed me worthy to look at justice and to administrate it and to seek it from the other side of the bench.”

Rashid’s induction and its ramifications was one of many new elements in this year’s ceremony. Representatives of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths were also on hand to offer invocations and benedictions, while the jury box, filled with Republican officials in years past, was instead brimming with Democrats. Some will return Monday for their own swearing-in ceremonies for county council and District Attorney.

But while the faces changed, much of the ceremony was also familiar. The cordiality remained, as did the humor and respect. Each of the judges being sworn in Friday also attributed their success primarily to their families and vowed to uphold the ideals of truth and justice incumbent upon their roles, as is tradition.

Cartisano, introduced by her granddaughter, Victoria Iacona, noted she got grandchildren the easy way: By inheriting them from their grandfather. But as Iacona said, Cartisano earned every letter of the honorific “Mum Mum” through her tireless devotion and constant love and support – support that Cartisano said was reciprocated by each of her grandchildren and their parents.

To her new colleagues, Cartisano urged that they seek any help or guidance from their fellow judges that they feel they might need, adding it is one of the most collegiate benches in Pennsylvania.

Lowe, a former Swarthmore mayor who holds a juris doctorate from New York University, said the biggest reason he is on the bench today is because of his wife, Marjorie McAboy, who kept him “on the straight and narrow,” and his parents, Irma and Arnold Lowe.

“This election effort was the most enriching experience of my life,” he said. “I met more different kinds of people in more different kinds of neighborhoods and learned from everybody. When you run for election you don’t have them come to you on your terms, you come meet them on their terms and by doing that I just got more and more enriched.”

Eckel, a cum laude graduate of Temple University School of Law and former commercial litigator at Duane Morris LLP, thanked all of those who helped shape her into the attorney she is today, including one professor who taught her the answer to most questions in the law is, “It depends,” and that the key to professional happiness is finding something that allows you to use your gifts to the benefit of others.

Eckel also harkened back to her grandmother, whose mantra was, “Every day is a new day.”

“Every day, I think of those words,” she said. “Every day is an opportunity to do good, to do well, to be kind.”

Klein, who received a law degree from the Washington College of Law, American University in Washington, D.C., and formerly served as a Magisterial District Judge in Media, Nether Providence and Swarthmore from 1995 to 2013, said each of the new judges looks forward to working with their new colleagues and measuring out equitable justice for those who come before them.

“I have spent my whole legal career trying to make an impact on the lives of people around me and in public service, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to once again serve,” she said.

President Judge Kevin F. Kelly closed the ceremony by welcoming the new and retained judges to the bench, urging them to discharge their responsibilities by deciding each case with integrity while upholding the cherished constitutionally protected rights afforded the citizenry.

“With the unqualified spirit of cordial collegiality which has been its decades-long hallmark,” he said, “this bench warmly welcomes its newest colleagues and friends, and extends to judges Rashid, Lowe, Klein and Eckel – as well as their families and other loved ones – its heartfelt congratulations and sincere best wishes for long and reported careers on this, the beginning of their respective journeys as Delaware County Court of Common Pleas judges.”

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