Joyce Kennard retired as an associate justice on the California Supreme Court in 2014. Appointed in 1989 by then California governor George Deukmejian, she was the court’s second woman and first Asian American justice. She also served as: chair of the California Judicial Council’s Appellate Advisory Committee; associate justice (and, earlier, senior attorney) on the state Court of Appeal in Los Angeles; trial judge in Los Angeles County; and a deputy attorney general in Los Angeles.
Among Kennard’s honors are the American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent Award; the First Justice Rose Bird Memorial Award from the California Women Lawyers organization; the Public Service Award from the Asian Pacific American Bar Association; and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Japanese American Bar Association. She has also received honorary doctor of law degrees from seven California law schools. In 2010, Kennard received APAA’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Born in Indonesia to multi-ethnic (Dutch, Indonesian, Chinese and German) parents, Kennard spent part of her childhood imprisoned in an internment camp in Java during the Japanese occupation. Then, as a teenager, she lost her right leg above the knee due to a tumor. She immigrated to the United States in 1961 at age 20, about which she feels “indebted to America for letting [her] in.”
As a jurist, Kennard proved herself an unpredictable, independent thinker who often sided with the underdog. Among her blockbuster decisions was a 2002 case involving Nike for which she wrote that corporations must be truthful about their product claims, and helping to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage in 2008 (which the voters then reinstated). Kennard was also well known for her vigorous and astute questioning at oral arguments.
Kennard received her undergraduate degree in humanities from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, her master of public administration from the USC Price School of Public Policy and her JD from the USC Gould School of Law.