NOW Spotlight on Supreme Court Candidates: Leah Ward Sears

By Jessica Randall, NOW/PAC Intern

Leah Ward Sears has a very distinguished judicial career, including breaking the glass ceiling when she became the first African-American woman Chief Justice of any state supreme court and the youngest justice on Georgia’s Supreme Court. Sears was also on President Obama’s short list in 2009 when Justice David Souter retired.

Sears was born in Heidelberg, Germany, to an Army aviator and a teacher, but her teenage years in Savannah, Ga., left an indelible impression on her. She has described herself as “stamped” and “molded” by the civil rights movement. Sears, 54, is seen to be moderate to liberal in her rulings or at least liberal enough to be disliked by anti-abortion rights groups because — they say — she protects constitutional rights to privacy against efforts to legislate “morality.”

Sears attended Emory University Law School, which would make her the only justice on the bench who did not graduate from Harvard or Yale Law Schools. She was a lawyer for Alston & Bird Attorneys at Law, a traffic court judge for the City of Atlanta, a judge on the Fulton Superior Court in Atlanta (the first African-American woman to hold this position in the state) and founder of the Battered Women’s Project of Columbus, Ga. S

ears is also a member of the left-leaning American Constitution Society and the National Association of Women Judges. She also founded the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys.

From 1992-2009 she served as the first African-American woman on the Georgia Supreme Court. During her time on the Georgia Supreme Court. Sears ruled twice against the state’s laws against sodomy, which often target the LGBT community. “The individual’s right to freely exercise his or her liberty is not dependent upon whether the majority believes such exercise to be moral, dishonorable, or wrong,” wrote Sears in a concurring opinion in Powell v. State in 1998.

Sears is currently practicing law at Schiff Hardin law firm. There may be some concern that Sears is a board member of the Institute for American Values, an organization whose publications consistently argue that family forms other than a married mother and father threaten child well-being and the very fabric of society.

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