News Release: Law, People, University News

Jun. 15,  2010

Former Ga. Supreme Court Justice Sears Elected to Emory's Board of Trustees

News Article ImageJudge Leah Ward Sears

Former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice and Emory alumnae Leah Ward Sears has been elected to Emory University's Board of Trustees. Nominated by the Emory Alumni Board, she was elected as an alumni trustee during the trustees' annual June meeting.    


"Throughout her career Justice Sears has exemplified the values essential to Emory as we advance our mission of courageous inquiry. Given her background, commitments and expertise, she will make outstanding contributions to the Emory University Board of Trustees," says Rosemary Magee, vice president and secretary of the university, who works closely with the board of trustees.

In February 1992, then-Gov. Zell Miller appointed her to Georgia's Supreme Court where she became the first woman and the youngest person ever to sit on that court. She retained her seat on the state's Supreme Court by winning a statewide election in the fall of 1992, making her the first woman to win a contested statewide election in Georgia. She was sworn in as Chief Justice of Georgia's Supreme Court on June 28, 2005.

Justice Sears joined the law firm Schiff Hardin, LLP as a partner in the litigation group in 2009 after retiring from her service on the Georgia Supreme Court.  She also is working on issues in family law, and is a visiting professor on contemporary issues in family law at the University of Georgia School of Law. She also serves as the William Thomas Sears Distinguished Fellow in Family Law at the Institute for American Values.  

She began her career as a trial attorney for Alston & Bird. Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young appointed her as a judge in the City Court of Atlanta in 1985. After serving three years in this position, Justice Sears was elected to the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia.


She is a graduate of Emory Law School, earning a juris doctor in 1980. She holds a bachelor of science degree from Cornell University, and a master of laws in appellate judicial process from the University of Virginia School of Law. She also has honorary doctor of laws degrees from Morehouse College, John Marshall University, Clark-Atlanta University, LaGrange College and Piedmont College.  In 2001, she received the Emory Medal, Emory University's highest honor.


Justice Sears' professional and civic affiliations are numerous.  She founded and served as the first president of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys and founded the Battered Women's Project in Columbus, Ga.  She is a member of the National Association of Women Judges, the Atlanta Chapter of Links, Inc., the United States Supreme Court Historical Society and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.  In 2006, she was selected by Law Dragon as one of the 500 Leading Judges in America.   

The 41-member board of trustees oversees the governance and long-range fiduciary health of the university. Alumni trustees serve six years. Nominees are selected by the Emory Alumni Board and submitted to the board of trustees for consideration and approval. 

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