Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal began her service as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of South Carolina on March 17, 1988, becoming the first woman to serve as a Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court. 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 as Chief Justice in February of 2004 and again in February of 2014, each time for ten-year terms.
She is the first native Columbian and first Roman Catholic to serve on South Carolina's highest court.
Born August 11, 1943 in 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 School of Law 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.