Joyce Luther Kennard’s journey through life has been remarkable: From an early childhood spent in an internment camp in West Java during World War II, to preadolescence spent in the jungles of New Guinea with her widowed mother and four other families in a small Quonset hut with no running water, to an American immigrant and to a California Supreme Court Justice. In April 1989, Governor Deukmejian appointed Kennard to the California Supreme Court, making her the second woman and the first individual of Eurasian descent (Dutch-Indonesian-Chinese) to serve as a justice on the state high court. She has been re-elected twice.
Kennard’s early education had been limited, and all schooling ended shortly before her sixteenth birthday when an infection resulted in the amputation of her right leg. At age twenty, Kennard immigrated to America where she worked as a secretary in Los Angeles. Seven years later, her mother died in Holland, leaving Kennard her life savings of $5,000. She enrolled in college and finished in three years, while working part time. She graduated magna cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Kennard then attended law school at the University of Southern California, simultaneously obtaining a Master’s in Public Administration, and receiving the school’s “Outstanding Thesis” award.
Kennard is a frequent dissenter on the state high court, where her opinions reflect a fierce independence. She has been described as a “judge’s judge,” an apolitical purist. She has received numerous honors and awards.