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Kevin Dougherty, the associate justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, talking in front of a room full of lawyers and legal professionals during the AL DÍA Lawyers Forum on Nov. 8, 2018. Photo: Peter Fitzpatrick / AL DÍA News
Kevin Dougherty, the associate justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, talking in front of a room full of lawyers and legal professionals during AL DÍA Lawyers Forum on Nov. 8, 2018. Photo: Peter Fitzpatrick / AL DÍA News

Justice Kevin Dougherty: Bringing diversity and inclusion into the court of law

During AL DÍA Lawyers Forum on Thursday, Nov. 8, Justice Kevin Dougherty gave his insights into the importance of diversity and inclusion in the justice system.

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When asked what he would like to bring to the state of Pennsylvania, Justice Kevin Dougherty can sum it all up in one word: diversity.

“When you think about it, diversity is just the ability to think together, yet when we’re thinking together, we’re bringing in separate thoughts,” Justice Dougherty said during AL DÍA Lawyers Forum on Nov. 8.

As an associate justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Dougherty aims to find ways to address the issues that affect all Pennsylvanians.

“We are the oldest Supreme Court in the country,” he said. “But, in our long history, founded in 1722, we’ve yet to have a Latina or Latino [on the bench].”

As AL DÍA celebrated this new generation of Latino professionals in the region within the law field, Dougherty talked about his own experiences with diversity, inclusion, and access in the courts in his various roles, which included positions ranging from his former role as a trial judge of the PA Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County to his current role.

Growing up in a predominantly Irish-Catholic community in South Philadelphia, Dougherty said he did not see a lot of diversity. He soon came to realize that many of the people he grew up with and encountered on an everyday basis were not as valued and faced obstacles in Philadelphia at that time. He didn’t want that to continue, and his drive to promote equality pointed him towards a career in the legal profession.

Dougherty recalled thinking to himself: “If I learned the law, I would have power that I don’t have to purchase,” he said. “Power that I would never acquire from politics because I was growing up in an environment where we were, more or less, powerless.”

Throughout his many years in the field, Dougherty has prided himself on creating positive change, grounded in grassroots meetings with stakeholders in the justice system. However, he said, the best way to subvert biases is by having direct and candid communication. He added that that type of communication can create a more comprehensive understanding of our society.

Justice Dougherty credits other justices for being “ready,” “willing” and “able to address the issues” that are affecting others.

However, there are four main components he believes will help society continue to move forward into the near and far future.

“The answer is inclusion, transparency, camaraderie and just … love,” he said. As Dougherty continues his role as Associate Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, he delivered a clear message to the lawyers and legal professionals in attendance.

“Let’s independently think together, let's bring diversity, goodwill and just the advancement of people in Pennsylvania,” he said. “That’s what I asked of you when we were elected, that’s what I stand for today, and that’s what I look forward to doing and professing in the future.”

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