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Chief Justice Kay McFarland

Year Inducted: 
Chief Justice Kay McFarland
  • First female elected to judgeship in Shawnee County, Kansas
  • First female to be appointed to the State Supreme Court
  • First Female to be Chief Justice in Kansas

Kay McFarland was born on July 20, 1935, in Topeka. She was graduated magna cum laude from Washburn University with dual majors in English and history-political science in 1957. She is a 1964 graduate of the Washburn University School of Law and was admitted to the Kansas Bar the same year. She was in the private practice of law until January 1971 when she became judge of the probate and juvenile courts of Shawnee County. She defeated the incumbent to attain this position.

Justice McFarland delivered the court reforms pledged in her campaign and reduced serious juvenile offenses by more than half in the two years she held that office. Justice McFarland was the first woman to be elected to a judgeship in Shawnee County. In January 1973, she became judge of the newly created Fifth Division of the District Court in Topeka, thereby becoming the first woman to be a district judge in the history of Kansas. Her election to this high office came after her victories over opponents in both the primary and general elections. On September 19, 1977, she was appointed by the governor to be a justice of the Kansas Supreme Court and was the first woman to hold that office. She became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on September 1, 1995, upon the retirement of Hon. Richard W. Holmes.

Justice McFarland's many interests include showing dogs, wildlife conservation, and world travel.

(adapted from kscourts.org)

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