Joyce L. Kennard

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Joyce L. Kennard
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California
In office
April 1989 – April 5, 2014
Nominated by George Deukmejian
Preceded by John A. Arguelles
Succeeded by Leondra Kruger
Personal details
Born (1941-05-06) May 6, 1941 (age 75)
Bandung, West Java, Indonesia
Spouse(s) Robert Kennard
Alma mater University of Southern California

Joyce Luther Kennard (born May 6, 1941) is a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California. Appointed by Governor George Deukmejian in 1989, she was the longest-serving justice sitting on the Court at the time of her 2014 retirement, having been retained by California's voters three times—first to fill the unexpired term in 1990, followed by second and third consecutive twelve-year terms in 1994 and 2006.

Early years[edit]

Kennard was born in the city of Bandung in the Indonesian province of West Java. Both of her parents were of mixed Eurasian ancestry. Her father, Johan, was of Dutch, Indonesian and German ancestry, while her mother, Wilhemine, was mostly of Chinese Indonesian ancestry as well as Dutch and Belgian ancestry.[1] Kennard speaks English with a distinct Dutch accent. Her father died in a Japanese concentration camp when she was one year old.[2]

Kennard and her mother moved to the Netherlands in 1955.[1] The rigidity of the Dutch educational system meant that Kennard's hopes of attending university were derailed when she contracted a tumor on her right leg, which resulted in the amputation of part of that limb at age 16.[1] She now walks with the help of a prosthesis.

In 1961, she was able to immigrate to the United States as a result of a special law that authorized 15,000 additional visas for Dutch Indonesian refugees; she settled in Los Angeles and found her first U.S. job as a secretary for Occidental Life Insurance.[1] Wilhemine (who was stuck in a menial restaurant job) stayed behind so that her daughter would always have a home base, but died of lung cancer in 1968.[1]

Wilhemine's last gift to her daughter was a bequest of $5,000 she had carefully saved up over the years.[1] This money, on top of Kennard's own savings (and additional income from continuing to work part-time while in school), enabled Kennard to finally pursue her long-deferred dream of going to college. In 1970, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude in German from the University of Southern California, where she would go on to graduate in 1974 with a Master of Public Administration and a Juris Doctor from the USC Gould School of Law.

Judicial career[edit]

Kennard's rise within the California court system is often described as "meteoric."[3] Appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1986, Kennard was elevated to the California Superior Court in 1987 and elevated again to the California Court of Appeal in 1988. Finally, in 1989, Governor George Deukmejian appointed her to the California Supreme Court. Upon taking her oath, Kennard became the second woman and the first Asian American to serve as a justice on the Court.

During her time on the bench, Kennard has authored numerous high-profile opinions, the best-known of which is Kasky v. Nike (2002) 27 Cal. 4th 939. In that case, the California Supreme Court held that Nike could not claim a First Amendment "commercial free speech" defense when charged with lying about sweatshop conditions in its overseas manufacturing plants. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari, but ultimately the Court declined to render an opinion, instead letting the California Supreme Court's decision stand. Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe, who had criticized the California Supreme Court's decision, represented Nike.

Kennard has had a reputation for aggressive questioning during oral argument.[4] She did not hesitate to ask long and complicated questions—often speaking for minutes at a time before prompting an attorney to respond, and often asked the first question in a given case.[5]


Justice Kennard retired from the court on April 5, 2014 after 25 years of service.[6][7][8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Kort, Michele (7 February 1993). "Fairly Unpredictable: On the lackluster California Supreme Court, Justice Joyce Kennard stands out. She's a woman, she's Asian, and she's developed an tendency to disagree.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  2. ^ Harris, Nancy Smith. "Joyce Luther Kennard". Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  3. ^ "California Supreme Court". Los Angeles Times. May 15, 2008. 
  4. ^ Nick Roman and Julian Burrell (February 17, 2014). "California Supreme Court Justice Kennard talks adversity, gratitude". Southern California Public Radio. 
  5. ^ Kevin R. Johnson (June 30, 2008). "Immigrants Of The Day: Justice Joyce Kennard of Indonesia, James Barrett Reston of Scotland, and Dorothy Jacobs Bellanca of Latvia". Immigration Daily. 
  6. ^ Egelko, Bob (February 12, 2014). "Joyce Kennard to retire from California Supreme Court". San Francisco Gate. 
  7. ^ Mintz, Howard (February 11, 2014). "California Supreme Court Justice Joyce Kennard retiring". San Jose Mercury News. 
  8. ^ Dolan, Maura (February 11, 2014). "Justice Joyce Kennard to retire from California Supreme Court". Los Angeles Times. 
  • Philip Hager, "L.A. Judge Named to California High Court," L.A Times, 12 March 1989.
  • Philip Hager, "Kennard Seeks Her Own Way on High Court," L.A. Times, 17 September 1989.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
John A. Arguelles
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California
Succeeded by
Leondra Kruger