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Jean Hoefer Toal

A woman of many firsts – Jean Hoefer Toal – first woman appointed to the South Carolina Supreme Court and to serve as Chief Justice

Jean Hoefer Toal

Hon. Jean Hoefer Toal holds many firsts in regards to her judicial profession. She became the first woman to be appointed to the South Carolina Supreme Court in 1988 and the first woman elected to serve as Chief Justice. She is the first Roman Catholic and native Columbian to hold these positions.

Chief Justice Toal was born in Columbia, SC. She attended Agnes Scott College, earning a B.A. in philosophy in 1965. Chief Justice Toal attended the University of South Carolina School of Law where she was she was one of four women out of a class of 200. While in law school, she was the managing editor of the South Carolina Bar Review as well as a member of the Order of the Coif, Mortar Board and Phi Beta Kappa. In 1968, she received her J.D. and was admitted to the South Carolina Bar. At this time, women accounted for less than one percent of the total number of lawyers licensed to practice law in South Carolina. Women now account for nearly twenty percent of lawyers practicing in South Carolina.

Hon. Jean Toal was an associate at Haynsworth, Perry, Bryant, Marion and Johnstone, and she was the first woman partner at Belser, Baker, Barwick, Ravenel, Toal and Bender. In 1974, she was elected to the State House of Representatives and served 13 years until her appointment to the Supreme Court. During her time in the State House of Representatives, she was the first woman to chair a standing committee and serve as chair to the judiciary committee’s Constitutional Laws Subcommittee.

Chief Justice Toal is known and praised for her efforts to implement cloud computing to update and modernize the state courts system. She is a champion and role model for women interested in law. She is accredited with promoting a ladder analogy when speaking to women about success. The analogy explains “that women who climb the ladder of success have a duty and an obligation not to pull up the ladder behind them for those who come after. Women must leave that ladder down so that other women who follow may also achieve success.”2 In 2004, the Bar Association presented her with a ladder pin after being awarded the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.


SC Judicial Department Supreme Court. (n.d.). Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal. (Includes image)

Diana, S. (June 9, 2009). Q&A with South Carolina Women Lawyers Association president-elect Jenny Horne. South Carolina Lawyers Weekly.

(4), 1579-1581.

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