Jean Hoefer Toal was elected the Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court on March 23, 2000. As Chief Justice, she presides over the highest court in South Carolina. Her court sets the rules for other South Carolina courts and makes sure that laws are fair.
While at Dreher High School in Columbia, Jean was recognized as one of the top debaters in the state. She eventually decided to go to school to become a lawyer, a career that would take advantage of her debating skills. When she entered law school at the University of South Carolina in 1965, there were only three other women attending. After graduation in 1968, Jean began practicing law in South Carolina. At the time, there were only 10 female lawyers in the state. Today, there are over 2,000 female lawyers in South Carolina.
Jean practiced law for 20 years before her entrance into the Supreme Court of South Carolina. Aside from her experience as a lawyer, Jean also served in the House of Representatives from 1975 until 1988. As a representative, she worked to solve problems and make new laws for South Carolina. Her success as a lawyer and a representative led to an appointment as Associate Justice on the South Carolina Supreme Court in 1988. To date, Jean is the first and only woman to attain this position on the court. For the next twelve years, Jean developed her skills as a judge, working with other Associate Judges on important court cases. In March 2000, she was appointed Chief Justice, the highest ranked judge in the state. Once again, Jean had become the first woman to hold that position.
As Chief Justice, Jean works on improving the process of the courts. She envisions using the Internet to help lawyers and citizens with their cases. When Jean is not working as a judge, she is helping students at the University of South Carolina. Jean created a group that helps female college athletes set career goals. She also encourages young female lawyers, telling them, "to believe that no goal is impossible to achieve."