At 38 years of age, Leondra Kruger was the youngest justice and the only African-American, ever confirmed on the California Supreme Court. In a powerful luncheon hosted by the Mentorship Team of Women Give San Diego and the Lawyer’s Club of San Diego, Justice Kruger shared her motivation to enter law school, her personal skills and challenges, the many roles of mentors, how to get teens civically engaged, and what her life is like now.
Justice Kruger grew up inspired by a mother who was a trailblazer in medicine and committed to service and making the world a better place. With her own passion in writing, she went to law school because she wanted the opportunity to use her pen in greater service. She received a Juris Doctor degree from Yale University in 2001.
A local student in the luncheon audience asked about Justice Kruger’s biggest challenge. She shared that she was very quiet and reserved growing up, and felt awkward seeking help from professors. She believed it was inappropriate, since she saw it as asking for something for nothing. A classmate told to, “Cut it out or people will never know how good you are.” We are all grateful that she took that classmate’s advice!
Justice Kruger said that is currently inspired by the ideas that are debated thoughtfully and carefully by the Justices of the CA Supreme Court and their many rich conversations. Her top skill is her ability to listen, because no one person’s point of view can monopolize, so she needs to be able to listen deeply to understand many points of view. Justice Kruger also shared that while she doesn’t formally have a mentor in her workplace right now, mentors in one’s life can take many forms, from a boss or co-worker to guide you through the workplace, to someone who helps you understand how to return to the workplace after having children or how to balance work and home as a new mother.
Another student from the audience asked for Justice Kruger’s suggestions on how to get teens and young adults involved in civic engagement and the legislative process. She explained the importance of helping our youth recognize more clearly what our government does and how and why it matters to all of us. She also discussed how young people learn by seeing and doing. This means that the more that adults are willing to be role models, in their commitment of time and energy to improving their communities, the more young people will see how it’s done in accessible ways.
When asked how she balances her obviously challenging career with her home life as a mother of 3-year old son, she explained how lucky she is to have so much support and help, including a partner who shares a lot of the burden. And what does she do for fun? “What I do for fun mostly these days is play with cars and trucks.” Thank you Justice Kruger, for your tenacity and authenticity.