Recognizing International Day of Women Judges with Law Alumna

Co-Dean Jessica Berg with Judge Lisa B. Forbes, Judge Michelle J. Sheehan and Judge Emanuella D. Groves
From left to right: Co-Dean Jessica Berg with Judge Michelle J. Sheehan, Judge Emanuella D. Groves and Judge Lisa B. Forbes

For Emanuella Groves (LAW ‘81), doing what is right has always been a core principle. Throughout her childhood, Groves’ parents stressed the importance of education and hard work, driving her to graduate both high school and college in three years before beginning her law degree at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. 

Prior to her successful election to the Eighth District Court of Appeals on Nov. 3, 2020, Groves proudly returned to the law school and served as an adjunct faculty member, teaching Criminal Procedure II. 

In recognition of International Day of Women Judges, celebrated around the world on March 10, we asked Groves about influential women in her career and what advice she has for aspiring judges. 

What advice would you give to other women (either students in law school or later in their careers) who aspire to be judges?

You should work hard at being a good attorney. It’s important to have a sound foundation in the law. As a judge, you will have parties trying to convince you to decide their way. If you do not have the confidence that you understand the law, you might be unduly swayed. Certainly, you are not expected to know everything. Having worked hard, you will have confidence in what you know. Additionally, you’ll be comfortable in knowing when you don’t know the answer, but willing to take the time to get it.
Most importantly, to be a good judge, always work on being a good person. Understand the balance in using the power that you have and always treat people with respect and dignity. How you treat people matters. This character trait will follow you on the bench. Finally, develop meaningful relationships. I had many friends and even former people who were employees that I supervised help on my campaign. It is quite humbling to be entrusted with the power of the position of judge.

Were there any particularly influential women who you looked up to during their career or that you still look up to?

Judge Sara Harper was the first black woman to graduate from Case Western Reserve School of Law. She was one of the first black women elected to the Eighth District Court of Appeals. I had an opportunity to practice before Judge Harper when she was a Cleveland Municipal Court Judge. She started to encourage me ten years before I actually ran for judge. She was a neighbor, mentor and great role model. 

The late Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, also an alumna, was a great leader and friend. She had an ability to garner support county-wide, as a judge, county prosecutor and congresswoman. She was a dear friend to both me and my husband. She was my honorary campaign manager when I ran for judge in 2001. She also administered the judicial oath of office to me. I am fortunate to have had these amazing trailblazers in my life. I can never fully appreciate the depth of obstacles they had to overcome to reach the heights of their achievements. I am eternally grateful for them. They were exemplary public servants, leaders and role models.

You've returned to campus in the last few years for events or to hold hearings at the law school - how important do you feel it is to expose law students to real proceedings?

As a 1981 law school graduate, I had the opportunity to practice in the trial clinic. But now having the court come to the law school is great. It provides an opportunity for more students to be exposed to court proceedings and judges.