Wallach (Private Scores, 1986, etc.) dresses up her soapy premise--best friends in love with the same man--with a lively glimpse at the intense machinations that lie behind advancement in the judicial system. Pax Ford and Rosa Macario go way back--to the days when Rosa's mother was the laundress for Pax's Park Avenue family. Pax pulled strings to help Rosa get an education. Now both women are judges, hoping to be promoted to New York's Appellate Court. While Rosa has political clout as a Puerto Rican woman, Pax has just snared a highprofile case: A billionaire artist has died, and his lover, a dancer named Tom D'Arcy, wants custody of the dead man's six-year-old daughter. Facing off against him is the child's tightly wound aunt, who's married to Talcott Bishop, owner of the trade paper that covers the legal industry. Widowed Pax has a long-awaited date with defense attorney Leonard Scholer, who trundles her off to bed, only to have postcoital disaster strike when he reveals that his firm is representing D'Arcy. Despite her strong feelings, Pax must put him on hold. Protests, a shooting, and numerous lawyerly shenanigans test Pax's benchside mettle. Sleazy Talcott Bishop threatens to publicize lurid evidence about her dead husband's longtime affair with a man. Leonard shows up at an industry event as Rosa's date. Pax throws a tantrum, but justice for all rapidly ensues: Rosa gets the job, Pax gets the man, and the courtroom gets a feel-good speech in which Pax goes public with her dead husband's homosexuality, which taught her that gay men can be good parents, too. Wallach juggles plots and subplots skillfully, dancing around issues like racism, child abuse, and AIDS without letting them darken her sunny-side-up story. The boyfriend rivalry is undercooked and tepid, then, but the canny portrait of the judicial system in action adds welcome momentum and keeps those pages turning.