2 minute read

Juanita Kidd Stout

Juanita Kidd Stout was the first African American woman to be elected judge in the United States. Before her election to the Pennsylvania bench, Stout worked in the Philadelphia district attorney's office. She later was appointed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, becoming the first African American woman to serve on that court.

Stout was born on March 7, 1919, in Wewoka, Oklahoma, the daughter of schoolteachers Henry Maynard Kidd and Mary Alice Kidd. She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Iowa in 1939. At that time no accredited colleges in Oklahoma admitted African Americans. Between 1939 and 1942, Stout taught music in the high schools at Seminole and Sand Springs, Oklahoma. In 1942, she moved to Washington, D.C., and worked in a law office, which led to her decision to become a lawyer.

Stout graduated from the University of Indiana Law School in 1948. She taught at Florida A&M University in 1949 and Texas Southern University in 1950. In 1950, she became an administrative assistant to a federal appeals court judge in Philadelphia. She left this position in 1954 and went into private practice. In 1955, she joined the city's district attorney's office, serving as chief appellate attorney.

In September 1959, Governor David L. Lawrence appointed Stout a judge of the Philadelphia municipal court. Stout ran for a full term on the bench in November of that year and was elected, making her the first African American woman to be elected to a judgeship. In 1969, she was elected to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and was reelected in 1979, both times receiving the highest number of votes of the Philadelphia Bar Association with respect to judicial qualifications.

During the 1960s, Stout gained national recognition for her vigorous fight against crime

Juanita Kidd Stout.

and juvenile delinquency. She wrote numerous articles about race, crime, and justice, and toured six African countries in 1967, lecturing at law schools, colleges, and high schools.

In 1988, Stout was appointed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Her tenure was brief, however, because an age limit specified by the state constitution forced her to retire one year later at age 70. Stout returned to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to serve as a senior judge, where she continued to speak out on racial and gender bias in the courts. Over the years Stout gave numerous speeches and was the recipient of many awards. In 1988, she was chosen Justice of the Year by the National Association of Women

Judges. Stout died August 21, 1998, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Brennan, Lisa. 1989. "Stout Forced to Retire." Pennsylvania Law Journal-Reporter (May 22).

Halbert, Marvin R. 1981. "Off the Bench and Off the Cuff." Pennsylvania Law Journal-Reporter (February 23).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Special power to Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation