Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA

News Release

March 01, 2005
Justice Joyce L. Kennard speaker at Southwestern’s 90th Commencement ceremony

Southwestern is pleased to announce that that Justice Joyce L. Kennard will be the speaker at Southwestern’s 90th Commencement ceremony to be held at the Shrine Auditorium on Sunday, May 22, 2005. Justice Kennard, who has served in the public sector for over thirty years, has been an associate justice of the California Supreme Court since 1989.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Southern California, Justice Kennard continued her studies there, simultaneously completing Juris Doctor and Masters in Public Administration degrees in 1974. The following year, she began her legal career as deputy attorney general in Los Angeles, handling criminal appeals. In 1979, she went on to serve as senior attorney for the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, where she spent seven years analyzing briefs, reviewing transcripts of civil and criminal trial proceedings, and drafting tentative opinions.

In 1986, Justice Kennard received her first judicial appointment at the Los Angeles Municipal Court and served briefly as associate justice pro tempore on the California Court of Appeal. She was elevated a year later to the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Her rapid ascent on the bench continued in 1988 when she returned to the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, this time as an associate justice.
Justice Kennard was appointed to the California Supreme Court by Governor Deukmejian in 1989, becoming the first person of Asian heritage and only the second woman to sit on the state’s highest court.

Born in what is now Indonesia, Justice Kennard has faced tremendous personal adversity. She spent her early childhood in a World War II internment camp in Japanese-occupied West Java and suffered the loss of a leg as a result of a life-threatening illness during her adolescence. She attended high school in Holland before emigrating alone to Los Angeles in 1961, and became an American citizen six years later.

Justice Kennard has been widely recognized and commended for her contributions to the cause of justice, her encouragement of women in the legal profession and her promotion of dignity and self-esteem among people with disabilities. She has received a myriad of honors and awards, among them the American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award and the Ernestine Stahlhut Award from the Women Lawyers’ Association of Los Angeles. She has also been honored for furthering the causes of such organizations as the Independent Living Center of Southern California; the L.A. County Commission on Disabilities; the Chinese Historical Society; the Netherlands-American Arts and Cultural Foundation; the Governors Hall of Fame for People with Disabilities and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

Justice Kennard is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, including a Doctor of Law from Southwestern University School of Law (1991).