Debra Todd was sworn in as Chief Justice of Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — On Friday, January 20, 2023, history was made in Pittsburgh when the daughter of a steel worker became chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, ending three centuries of men in the position.

When Debra Todd raised her hand, another gender barrier fell in Pennsylvania.

“In 300 years of our Pennsylvania Supreme Court, we’ve never had a woman chief justice, so it’s about time,” Todd said.

Todd’s seniority at the High Court made it her time to be the boss.

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Being chief justice means overseeing all courts across Pennsylvania and swearing in new governors, as she did last week.

“I’m no match for any of my peers when it comes to voting on cases,” Todd said. “This is where the money for administering the system ends.”

Debra McCloskey, the daughter of a steel worker, grew up in western Pennsylvania. Her father was proud when she became an attorney at US Steel. She was elected to the Superior Court in 1999 and to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2007.

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“I would like to see the political issues and electoral issues resolved without going to our court,” Todd added.

Todd is concerned about recent cases in which elected officials and the public suspect Supreme Court rulings are politically motivated and therefore corrupt.

“I believe there are no Democratic judges in our court, there are no Republican judges. We are all Justices of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court,” Todd said.

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Now there’s a woman in charge, which is a milestone that reminds Todd of her days in the elementary school choir.

“The song was called ‘Every Little Boy Can Be President’ and a boy got to sing the solo and the girls were the backing singers. At the time it was kind of an expectation that the guys were going to be the big achievers,” Todd said.

Combine Todd with Democratic House Speaker Joanna McClinton and Senate Speaker Pro Temp Kim Ward, women are no longer the backups.

“One day, probably very soon, it will just be normal when we talk about women in senior positions. And I’m waiting for the time when it’s normal to see women in high places, and we’re getting there,” said Representative Patty Kim (D-Dauphin/Cumberland).

Todd is no longer in the elementary school choir, but it is said that she still has a beautiful voice.

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When asked if she would sing abc27 a few bars of one of her favorite songs, Todd said, “No, I’m not going to sing you a few bars. I love the song ‘I Hope You Dance’ because it’s meaningful to me as a mother to think about my daughter and how I want her to achieve her dreams,” Todd concludes.

Much progress has been made in Pennsylvania, but much remains to be done. Pennsylvania has never elected a woman or person of color to be governor or senator of the United States. Debra Todd was sworn in as Chief Justice of Pennsylvania

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