Black Women in the Judiciary | Episode 19

Black woman judge banging the gavel in the courtroom

Since its founding more than two centuries ago, a Black woman has never served on the United States Supreme Court, but that could change with the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. In this episode, we talk with two Black women about their experience as judges, the importance of diversifying the courts and how to educate the public about the judicial system. 


Headshot of retired judge Joyce Williams Warren

Judge Joyce Williams Warren became the first Black woman judge in Arkansas when she was appointed as a juvenile court judge in January 1983. In November 1990, she became the first African American elected to a state-level trial court judgeship in Arkansas. She was a circuit court judge when she retired in 2020.

Judge Janice Johnson smiling standing in front of an American flag and a blue curtain backdrop

At the age of 32, Judge Shanice Johnson became the youngest woman  elected as a circuit judge in Arkansas. In 2020, she was elected to serve as a judge in the 10th Division of the state’s Sixth Judicial Circuit. The position was previously held by Judge Joyce Warren.

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is an Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts for NPR affiliates as well as print and digital publications since 2007.