February 19, 2014

Articles laud Justice Kennard’s long service on the California Supreme Court

In the wake of Justice Joyce Kennard’s recent announcement that she will be stepping down in April after 25 years on the Court, articles praising her years of public service continue to pour in.

Among the best, check out this interesting retrospective by The Recorder’s Scott Graham and Cheryl Miller.  The article summarizes Kennard’s meteoric rise from a World War II Japanese internment camp to become California’s first Asian-American Supreme Court justice—and only the second woman ever to serve on the Court.  Graham and Miller suggest Kennard will be remembered for her lack of any doctrinaire judicial ideology, which made it difficult to predict how she would vote in any particular case.  But they write she will also be remembered for the force of her thoughtful dissents—which often influenced later changes in the law—and for her strong work ethic.  In particular, Graham and Miller note, Kennard led a six-year project to modernize California’s appellate rules.  They quote Horvitz & Levy partner (and frequent At the Lectern blogger) David Ettinger, who served on Justice Kennard’s Appellate Rules Revision Project Task Force, as saying: “ ‘That’s an important part of her legacy that won’t appear in the casebooks.’ ”

Also check out Bob Egelko’s recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, assessing some of Justice Kennard’s most important opinions.  Egelko suggests that a passage in Kennard’s concurrence to the Court’s 2008 decision striking down California’s laws against same-sex marriage sums up her judicial philosophy: “ ‘The architects of our federal and state constitutions understood,’ Kennard wrote, ‘that widespread and deeply rooted prejudices may lead majoritarian institutions to deny fundamental freedoms to unpopular groups, and that the most effective remedy for this form of oppression is an independent judiciary.’ ”  (Hat tip to The UCL Practitioner for flagging the article.)

We also recommend listening to this interview that Justice Kennard recently gave to Southern California Public Radio.  In it, she expresses “gratitude” and says:  “Whatever success I may have achieved I owe to America.”

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