Montco. seats 1st African American female judge
NORRISTOWN, Pa. - February 1, 2012 (WPVI) -- History was made in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Wednesday. The first African American woman to serve on the bench in Montgomery County heard her first case.
It is appropriate that on the first day of Black History Month Montgomery County introduces their first African American female judge in 200 years.
The honorable Cheryl Austin was 16 years old the first time she visited a courtroom. Her teacher wanted her shorthand students to learn about stenography.
"The only person who looked like me was the defendant," said Honorable Cheryl L. Austin.
She says she knew then she could do what the white attorney was doing.
"The thing that really pushes me is when people tell me I can't do something," said Judge Austin. "I can't tell you the number of people around here who told me I can't do this."
But she also received a groundswell of support, and was sworn in on January third. But it was a long road to get there.
Unable to afford law school after graduating from Northwestern, she joined the Navy and retired a Captain.
At age 40, she finally attended law school at night.
The former Assistant District Attorney was sworn in as judge on January third.
She had appeared before nearly every judge on the bench, and Wednesday morning, she took her place on the other side hearing her first case.
Assigned to family court, she joins the second African American male judge in Montgomery County, the Honorable Garrett Paige.
"There are 23 judges and now we have a second African American, and quite frankly, we will be able to address that there is some representation, fair representation on the bench," said Judge Paige.
Judge Austin sees her new role as an opportunity to improve lives, especially those of children, and she relishes being a role model.
"All throughout my career, I've always believed that each one reach one, because we need more. We can benefit from having all types of judges because Montgomery County is composed of all types of people," says Judge Paige.
montgomery county, norristown, pennsylvania, local/state, lisa thomas-laury
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