Vratil, Kathryn

Vratil, JD
Year Inducted: 
Kathryn Vratil
  • First woman to appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas
  • Chief Judge of the U.S. District court for the District of Kansas
  • Clerk for Judge Earl O’Connor

Judge Kathryn Vratil graduated from the University of Kansas in 1971 with a degree in American Studies she then attended KU Law School.  In 1975 she began clerking for Judge Earl O’Connor at the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. 17 years later she was back at the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas—this time as a judge.

Judge Vratil’s commitment to advancing the position of women began in her undergraduate years. While an undergraduate Judge Vratil worked closely with Dr. Emily Taylor through her various campus leadership positions.  Long-time friend Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett wrote that “Dean Taylor instilled in Kathy the confidence and drive to pursue a juris doctorate at a time when few women were pursuing legal careers.” Judge Vratil not only went to law school when it was rare for women, she became an accomplished lawyer whose merit could not be denied—even if she was the only woman in the room.

In 1978, Judge Vratil became an Associate at Lathrop & Gage LLC. Five years later she was named a partner in the litigation department where she stayed until becoming a municipal judge for the city of Prairie Village, Kansas in 1990. While at Lathrop & Gage, Judge Vratil specialized in business and commercial litigation, experience that has served her well on the bench. In 1992 Judge Vratil was the first woman to be appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. In 2008 she was appointed Chief Judge and continues in that position today. During her time on the Federal bench she has adjudicated a wide range of cases including last year’s attempt to re-draw Kansas voter districts. She has also served on the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Legislation and a number of other influential committees in the judiciary including the Judicial Council and the Archives Committee.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Judge Vratil is her ability to balance a high-powered career with service to the community, women, and her alma mater. Her dedication to KU is demonstrated by her service to the Law School, Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity, Alumni Association, and Center for Environmental Education and Training. Judge Vratil is a member of the Central Exchange in Kansas City, an organization created to increase opportunities for personal, professional, and philanthropic growth for women.

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