California Supreme Court Justice
Dutch American Heritage Award 1992 Recipient
A naturalized citizen, Justice Kennard came to this country as a young adult. She was born in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia, and reached our shores by way of Dutch New Guinea and the Netherlands. Her parents were of Dutch, Indonesian, German and Chinese extraction. During the war, her father died in a Japanese prison camp when she was only one year old. She and her mother lost their home and all of their belongings when they were taken to a camp, where they remained until the end of the war.
In 1951, she and her mother moved to Dutch New Guinea (now Irian Jaya). Kennard and her mother shared a Quonset hut in the jungle with four other families. The hut had no kitchen, no refrigeration, and no indoor plumbing. Kennard attended a missionary school and started to learn English by listening to song lyrics broadcast from Australia. But life was difficult, and, when they had the chance, she and her mother moved to the Netherlands when Kennard was 14.
An excellent student and linguist, Kennard always planned to attend college, but was forced to take time off from school when her leg had to be amputated below the knee due to a serious infection. Deferring her dreams of higher education, she enrolled in secretarial school.
Kennard emigrated to the U.S. when she was 20, hoping to work in a factory. Instead, she worked as a secretary, and eventually enrolled in Pasadena City College at the age of 27. After earning an associate degree, she won a scholarship to the University of Southern California. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude, and continued in school to earn dual graduate degrees in public administration and law.
Kennard worked first as a deputy district attorney and then as a research attorney with the state court of appeals, and was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1986. One year later she was appointed a judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, and after another year became a judge on the Court of Appeal. She was named to the California Supreme Court, the second woman to serve there, in 1989.
Kennard has received many honors and awards. Among the groups that have cited her accomplishments are the University of Southern California Alumni Association, the Sacramento Women Amputees Group, the Women Lawyers” Association of Los Angeles, the Governor”s Hall of Fame for People with Disabilities, the Asian/Pacific Women”s Network, the California Trial Lawyer”s Association, the Community College League of California and the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California.