As the light began to fade on a cold January night over Independence Hall, a Temple alumnus was sworn in as a new justice on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court in the nearby National Constitution Center.
Kevin Dougherty, a South Philadelphia native who served as a judge for the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia from 2001-15, took the oath on Jan. 5 during a crowded ceremony on the center’s second floor.
Dougherty was inducted by Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor one day after Dougherty swore in Mayor Jim Kenney.
Dougherty received his undergraduate degree from Temple in the College of Liberal Arts in 1985, and said his time at the university was influential in his career.
“It’s the comprehensive urban environment in which you are invited into the multicultural, multiracial melting pot of education, so it absolutely broadens the horizons for any individual who’s entering that level of education,” Dougherty told The Temple News after the ceremony.
While on the bench, Dougherty said the main value he wants to adhere to is fairness.
He also said the challenges he will soon face are all yet to be seen.
“You know I’ll be just, you know I’ll be fair,” Dougherty said during the ceremony.
Ryan Boyer, business manager of the Laborers’ District Council of the Metropolitan Area of Philadelphia and Vicinity, said Dougherty’s hard work ethic during his childhood helped contribute to his success today. Dougherty received a significant portion of his campaign contributions from labor unions, including his brother’s, in the most expensive state Supreme Court elections in history; the court will handle legislative redistricting during his 10-year term.
“Kevin grew up in a rowhome,” Boyer said. “He will be a beacon of hope for all of the children growing up in rowhomes sharing rooms that they one day could ascend to them highest court in Pennsylvania.”
Dougherty was also influential in building the Family Court at 15th and Arch streets, serving as the administrative judge for nearly a decade. The Family Court currently houses 25 judges and more than 800 employees.
Mayor Jim Kenney, former governor Ed Rendell and representatives from the Pennsylvania Bar Association all spoke on behalf of Dougherty during the investiture ceremony, sharing anecdotes of Dougherty’s leadership and influence over his time as a common pleas judge.
Dougherty is prepared for serving on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court said Jane Golden, the founder and executive director of the Philadelphia Mural Arts program.
Golden said she has worked closely with Dougherty for several years of the Mural Arts program’s existence in Philadelphia via a partnership between the Court of Common Pleas and the program. This partnership gave juveniles who were charged with nonviolent crimes access to the ability to work with the Mural Arts program, which Dougherty played a crucial part in implementing.
Dougherty will take the bench after a historic change in Pa. Supreme Court with three seats that were up in the November general election. The two other judges that were recently sworn in were justices Christine Donohue and David Wecht.
“I know I achieved my dream,” Dougherty said.
Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick.