HomeLearning Center‘What if I Wanted to Be a Justice?’ Fort Mill Girl Finds Flaw in State Supreme Court

‘What if I Wanted to Be a Justice?’ Fort Mill Girl Finds Flaw in State Supreme Court

Originally published by Kaylen Pritchard for The State

South Carolina is the only state in the U.S. that doesn’t have a woman on its Supreme Court. In 233 years of South Carolina history, there have been only two.

Eleven-year-old Josie Duda of Fort Mill wants that to change.

“Last year, when the South Carolina Supreme Court came to York County in Rock Hill, my mom and dad took me out of school as a field trip to go see one of their cases,” Josie says.

Elizabeth Duda recalls her daughter’s dismay at the lack of female justices.

“She told me the first thing she noticed is that five men walked out on stage and there were no women,” Elizabeth said. “It’s so important for these girls to have female role models, and it was so disappointing to walk in there and not see representation of women.”

After that letdown, Josie became aware of another piece of startling news.

“In the past year, my mom told me that the woman who was on the South Carolina Supreme Court retired, and I was upset that there weren’t any women anymore,” Josie said.

Justice Kaye G. Hearn was the second woman in South Carolina history to serve on the state Supreme Court, serving from 2010 to 2022. The first was Chief Justice Jean Toal. She served 27 years.

The South Carolina Supreme Court consists of a Chief Justice and four Associate Justices. They are selected by the South Carolina General Assembly for a term of 10 years. The current members are: Chief Justice Donald W. Beatty; and Associate Justices John W. Kittredge, John Cannon Few, George C. James Jr., and D. Garrison Hill.

So Josie decided to take action.

She created a petition with dozens of signatures from around Fort Mill to share with S.C. Sen. Michael Johnson.

Senator Johnson confirmed Tuesday that he has received the petition.

“He has more power than I do, so he’s more likely to be able to get the word out to people who don’t know. He’s more likely to be able to change something,” Josie said.

She said she hopes the petition will express a collective voice in support of more women in places of power.

“I first got my class to sign it, and my Girls on the Run team,” Josie said.

Josie noticed that, while many students in her class were excited to sign the petition, there also were negative responses.

“Some boys did not sign it because they saw it as a competition of boys versus girls and about who could get on top,” Josie says. “This isn’t a competition. It’s about what’s best for the people and how we can improve.”

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