South Carolina Supreme Court - Chief Justice


Chief Justice - Jean Hoefer Toal

Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal began her service as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of South Carolina on March 17, 1988. She was re-elected in February of 1996 and was installed as Chief Justice on March 23, 2000 for the balance of the term of her predecessor, which expired June 30, 2004. She was re-elected again in February of 2004 and was installed as Chief Justice on June 9, 2004, for a ten-year term.

Born August 11, 1943 at Columbia, South Carolina, she attended parochial school and public school in Columbia and graduated from Dreher High School in 1961 where she was recognized as the state’s top debater.

Chief Justice Toal received her B.A. degree in philosophy in 1965 from Agnes Scott College where she served on the Judicial Council, National Supervisory Board of U. S. National Student Association and played Goalie for the Field Hockey team. She received her J.D. degree in 1968 from the University of South Carolina Law School where she served as Managing Editor, Leading Articles Editor and Book Review Editor of the South Carolina Law Review. She is a member of the Order of the Coif, Mortar Board and Phi Beta Kappa.

Chief Justice Toal practiced law for 20 years prior to her election to the South Carolina Supreme Court, first as an associate with the Haynsworth Law Firm in Greenville, and then as an associate and partner with Belser, Baker, Barwick, Ravenel, Toal & Bender in Columbia. When she was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1968, women comprised less than one percent of the licensed lawyers in South Carolina. Now almost twenty percent of South Carolina’s lawyers are women.

As a lawyer she appeared on a frequent basis in all levels of trial and appellate courts in South Carolina. She also had considerable experience as a litigator in United States District Court, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and made one appearance as co-counsel before the United States Supreme Court. Her twenty years as a practicing lawyer included a balance of plaintiff and defense work, criminal trial work, and complex constitutional litigation. She wrote many trial and appellate briefs at all court levels. She also had considerable administrative law experience in litigation involving environmental matters, federal and state procurement, hospital certificates of need, employment matters and election matters.

She utilized her law degree in public service. Beginning in 1975 she served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from Richland County for 13 years. She was the first woman in South Carolina to chair a standing committee of the House of Representatives. She served as Chairman of the House Rules Committee and Chairman of the Constitutional Laws SubCommittee of House Judiciary Committee. Her legislative service included floor leadership of complex legislation in the fields of constitutional law, utilities regulation, criminal law, structure of local government, budgetary matters, structure of the judicial system, banking and finance legislation, corporate law, tort claims, workers’ compensation, freedom of information act and environmental law.

She is the first and only woman to serve as a Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court. She is also the first native Columbian and first Roman Catholic to serve on South Carolina’s highest court.

During her 18 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Toal has written opinions addressing the full range of issues both criminal and civil which come before her Court. Also, she and two of her law clerks have authored a book entitled Appellate Practice in South Carolina.

In addition to her work on the bench, Chief Justice Toal has become chief advocate for South Carolina’s Judicial Automation Project. Under her leadership, technology initiatives are being integrated into the eight levels of the South Carolina court system. Some of the technology projects include high-speed network connectivity to all 46 county courthouses and an on-line, statewide case management system. Because of her efforts in promoting technology as a way to create a more efficient court system, Chief Justice Toal was recognized by Government Technology magazine as one of the 2002 “Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers” of technology in government.

She is a member of the Richland County, South Carolina and American Bar Associations, the South Carolina Women Lawyers Association, and the John Belton O’Neall Inn of Court. She serves on the Board of Trustees of Agnes Scott College, is president-elect of the Conference of Chief Justices, and is on the Board of Directors of the National Center for State Courts.

Chief Justice Toal received the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Outstanding Contribution to Justice Award in 1995. She has been awarded honorary doctorate degrees by the University of South Carolina, Francis Marion University, The Citadel, Columbia College and the College of Charleston.

(Richland Co.)—b. Aug. 11, 1943 in Columbia; daughter of the late Herbert W. and Lilla (Farrell) Hoefer; g. Agnes Scott Coll., B.A. in Philosophy, 1965; Univ. of S.C., J.D., 1968; m. William Thomas Toal, 2 daughters,
Jean Toal Eisen and Lilla Patrick; Managing Editor, S.C. Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Mortar Bd.; Order
of the Coif; Univ. of S.C. Mortar Bd. Woman of the Year, 1989; Hon. Doc. of Humane Letters, Coll. of
Charleston, 1990; Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, Univ. of S.C., 1991; Univ. of Notre Dame Award, 1991; Agnes Scott Coll., Outstanding Alumnae Award, 1991; Hon. Doctor of Law, Cola. Coll., 1992; Chm., S.C. Juvenile Justice Task Force, 1992–94; S.C. Comm. on Continuing Legal Educ., 1992–98; Chm., S.C. Rhodes Scholar Selection Com., 1994; John W. Williams Award, Richland Co. Bar, 1994; Jean Galloway Bissell
Award, S.C. Women Lawyers Assn., 1995; Portrait Honoree, S.C. Trial Lawyers Assn., 1995; Hon. Doctor of Law, The Citadel, 1999; Hon. Doctor of Law, Francis Marion Univ., 1999; Hon. Doctor of Law, Univ. of S.C., 2000; 2002 Govt. Technology Top 25, Doers, Dreamers & Drivers Award; ABA Margaret Brent Award, 2004; Lector, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church; John Belton O’Neall Inn of Court; Bd. of Trustees, Agnes Scott Coll.; Bd. of Dirs., Conf. of Chief Justices; Pres.-elect, Conf. of Chief Justices; Bd. of Dirs., Natl. Center for State Courts; Private Law Practice, Haynsworth, Perry, Bryant, Marion & Johnstone, 1968–70; Belser, Baker, Barwick, Ravenel, Toal & Bender, 1970–88; mem.: S.C. Human Affairs Comm., 1972–74; S.C. House of Reps., 1975–88; Chm., House Rules Com., 1980–88; elected Assoc. Justice Jan. 27, 1988 to fill unexpired
term of George Tillman Gregory, Jr., elected Chief Justice; qualified Mar. 17, 1988; re-elected Feb. 14, 1996; elected Chief Justice June 2, 1999 to fill the unexpired term of Chief Justice Ernest A. Finney, Jr., retired; installed Mar. 23, 2000, serving continuously since.

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