CA Supreme Court justice to retire

California Supreme Court Justice Joyce Kennard is the current longest serving justice in California. She plans to retire in April.
California Supreme Court Justice Joyce Kennard is the current longest serving justice in California. She plans to retire in April. Paul Sakuma/AP

The longest-serving current justice of the California Supreme Court announced Tuesday that she is retiring.

Justice Joyce Kennard notified Gov. Jerry Brown that she intends to step down on April 5, ending her 24-year tenure as a member of the state's highest court.

Former Gov. George Deukmejian appointed Kennard to the Supreme Court in 1989, The San Jose Mercury News reported. She previously was a Los Angeles trial judge and an appeals court justice for a brief time before being elevated to the State Supreme Court.

Kennard, 72, has a unique personal history, according to the Mercury News, because she is a native of Indonesia, moved to the Netherlands as a teenager and lost part of her right leg to a tumor, forcing her to walk with a prosthetic the rest of her life.

Kennard moved to the United States in 1961, settling in Southern California. She earned her law degree from the University of Southern California.

In her tenure on the court, she became famous for interjecting questions during oral arguments, often turning them into lengthy speeches before pointing her finger at a lawyer and demanding an answer. Despite being an appointee of the conservative Deukmejian, she was often unpredictable in her rulings and would come down on the more liberal side of social issues before the court.

Kennard was in the 4-3 majority that in 2008 struck down California's long-standing ban on gay marriage, a ruling that preceded voter approval of Proposition 8 — which restored the same-sex marriage ban until the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated it last year.

With Kennard's retirement, Brown has a chance to name his second justice to the seven-member court. The governor previously appointed Justice Goodwin Liu to the court.

A member of Kennard's staff said she was not immediately available for comment, noting that she has been inundated with calls since she informed the governor of her retirement, the Mercury News said.

(AUDIO: KPCC's Nick Roman speaks with San Francisco Chronicle reporter Bob Egelko about Kennard's retirement.)

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