The biography of the first female Supreme Court Justice of South Carolina
In Madam Chief Justice, editors W. Lewis Burke Jr. and Joan P. Assey chronicle the remarkable career of Jean Hoefer Toal, South Carolina's first female Supreme Court Chief Justice. As a lawyer, legislator, and judge, Toal is one of the most accomplished women in South Carolina history. In this volume, contributors, including a former and current U. S. Supreme Court justice, federal and state judges, state leaders, historians, legal scholars, leading attorneys, family, and friends, provide analysis, perspective, and biographical information about the life and career of this dynamic leader and her role in shaping South Carolina.
Growing up in Columbia during the 1950s and 60s, Jean Hoefer was a youthful witness to the civil rights movement in the state and nation. Observing the state's premier civil rights lawyer Matthew J. Perry Jr. in court encouraged her to attend law school, where she met her husband, Bill Toal. When she was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1968, fewer than one hundred women had been admitted in the state's history. From then forward she has been both a leader and a role model. As a lawyer she excelled in trial and appellate work and won major victories on behalf of Native Americans and women. In 1975 Toal was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives and despite her age and gender quickly became one of the most respected members of that body. During her fourteen years as a House member, Toal promoted major legislation on issues including constitutional law, criminal law, utilities regulation, local government, state appropriations, workers compensation, and freedom of information.
In 1988 Toal was sworn in as the first female justice on the Supreme Court of South Carolina, where she made her mark through her preparation and insight. She was elected chief justice in 2000, becoming the first woman ever to hold the highest position in the state's judiciary. As chief justice, Toal not only modernized her court, but also the state's judicial system. As Toal's two daughters write, the traits their mother brings to her professional life—exuberance, determination, and loyalty—are the same traits she demonstrates in her personal and family life. As a child Toal loved roller skating in the lobby of the post office, a historic building that now serves as the Supreme Court of South Carolina. From a child in Columbia to madam chief justice, she has come full circle.
Madam Chief Justice features a foreword by Sandra Day O'Connor, retired associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, and an introduction by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.
. is an emeritus professor of law at the University of South Carolina where he was chair of the Department of Clinical Legal Studies and taught clinics, alternative dispute resolution, trial advocacy, and South Carolina legal history. Before joining the law school faculty, he was a VISTA volunteer and a legal services attorney. Burke is the author and editor of five books and the author of numerous essays and articles on legal history. He resides on a farm in Saluda County.
is the director of technology for the South Carolina Judicial Department. Under Assey's leadership, South Carolina has been awarded $52 million in federal grants during the past ten years to use in developing technology for its court system. Previously she served as the technology adviser for education in the office of Governor James Hodges. Assey began her professional career as an educator in Richland County School District Two, where she taught middle and high school English. She lives in Columbia.
"Chief Justice Jean Toal has led our state's highest court with distinction and determination. Early in her tenure, she sought to modernize South Carolina's antiquated court system and asked for my support to bring federal resources to the table. Employing cutting-edge technologies, she created an internet-based system which allowed all forty-six counties to digitally manage their court records and dockets. A game changer in rural and urban citizens' access to justice, South Carolina's court automation system is widely regarded as a national model."—Former U.S. Senator Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings
"To put it plainly, Chief Justice Jean Toal is one of South Carolina's most important women. Tough, feisty, outspoken and usually the smartest person in the room, she's a tiny package of intellect and energy. She's also kind, funny, motherly—and firmly grounded in reality. Toal has been an activist nearly all her 72 years, including as a civil rights worker registering African American voters. She became a successful legislator and then South Carolina's first female chief justice. A lifelong pro-life Democrat, she fits no Southern stereotype or political template. She's no shrinking violet—or even a steel magnolia for that matter—but her own original species. She's the best kind of feminist - a non-ideologue who calls it as she sees it. Brave is she—and those who challenge her."—Kathleen Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the Washington Post
"Jean Toal translated her high school and college involvements in the 1960s desegregation movement into a lifelong pursuit of liberty and justice for all South Carolinians. Working shoulder to shoulder with her has provided me some unique and blessed experiences."—U.S. Congressman James E. Clyburn
"Madam Chief Justice is a remarkable book chronicling a remarkable life. It captures in exquisite and elegant detail the leadership of one of the seminal figures in the history of South Carolina."—William Hubbard, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP
"Madame Chief Justice celebrates a towering and historic life. Jean Toal's wisdom, courage, and perseverance are captured masterfully. This is a must-read for all who care for the rule of law and for the pioneers who have devoted their lives to its service."—Wallace B. Jefferson, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Texas (ret.)
"This biography of Chief Justice Toal is not only informative and entertaining, it contains a rather definitive history of South Carolina during the period of her public life."—Alex Sanders, president emeritus, College of Charleston
"The editors have assembled many eloquent voices to detail the trailblazing career of this remarkable South Carolina leader. Her passion for the law as a lawyer, legislator and judge paved the way for a modern South Carolina. Her devotion to education set the platform for a new 21st century public education system. Her unwavering support of civics education will be crucial in creating South Carolina's next generation of leaders."—Harris Pastides, president, University of South Carolina
"This comprehensive presentation of the life and career of Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal details her impact on modern government, the court system and the legal profession. She entered the profession when women stood in the margins. As women in South Carolina have achieved positions of real professional leadership as federal judges, supreme court justices and trial judges at every level, we know that we all stand on the shoulders of Jean Hoefer Toal."—Michele Childs