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Lorri Montgomery
Director of Communications
National Center for State Courts

S.C. Chief Justice Selected First Recipient of
Sandra Day O’Connor Award for Advancement of Civics Education

Williamsburg, Va. (Feb. 28, 2011) — Chief Justice of South Carolina Jean Hoefer Toal has been named the first recipient of the National Center for State Courts’ (NCSC) Sandra Day O’Connor Award for the Advancement of Civics Education. NCSC established the award in 2010 to honor an organization, court, or individual who has promoted, inspired, improved, or led an innovation or accomplishment in the field of civics education. The date and location of when Justice O’Connor will present the award to Chief Justice Toal have not been finalized.

“The business and decisions that take place in our state courts affect the daily lives of all our citizens. Yet, few people understand how our justice system works,” said NCSC President Mary McQueen. “Chief Justice Toal recognized this need and is taking great strides to improve students’ understanding of our courts.”

 “Chief Justice Toal has made remarkable progress in bringing civics education into the classroom for South Carolina students,” said Texas Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, chair of the NCSC Board of Directors.
Most recently Chief Justice Toal encouraged and supported the use of “Justice Case Files,” a graphic novel series developed by the NCSC that teaches students how the courts work, and she was instrumental in making South Carolina one of the first pilot states for Justice O’Connor’s iCivics web-based interactive civics education program for students.

Under Chief Justice Toal’s leadership, the South Carolina Judiciary has a long history of supporting civics education. In addition to iCivics and the “Justice Case Files” series, South Carolina has implemented three state civics programs:

  • The Class Action Program, which brings middle- and- high school students to the state Supreme Court to hear oral arguments.
  • The Case of the Month Program, which provides streaming video of a case argued before the state Supreme Court. Students are allowed to review the briefs submitted for the case and watch the proceedings.
  • South Carolina Supreme Court Institute, which is held for middle- and high-school social studies teachers to teach them how to bring law to life for their students.

For more information on the South Carolina programs, go to 

The NCSC award is named after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who has made improving civics education one of her priorities since retiring from the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006. South Carolina is one of the first states in the country to offer students both the “Justice Case Files” graphic-novel series and the iCivics project.

 In addition to Chief Justice Toal, the following individuals and organizations contributed to making the South Carolina iCivics program a success: Dr. Jane Brailsford, Coordinator of Virtual Schools and Professional Development, Lexington County School District; Catherine Templeton, iCivics National Coordinator; Molly H. Craig, iCivics National Coordinator; the South Carolina Defense Trial Attorneys’ Association, and the South Carolina Bar.
Chief Justice Toal was the first woman appointed to the state’s Supreme Court and became South Carolina’s first woman chief justice in 2000. Prior to joining the bench, Chief Justice Toal served in the South Carolina House of Representatives, 1975–88, and worked in private practice for Belser, Baker, Ravenel, Toal & Bender. She served as President of the Conference of Chief Justices and Chair of the NCSC’s Board of Directors in 2007-08.

The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation’s state courts.


Note: This news release is located on NCSC’s website.


National Center for State Courts, 300 Newport Avenue, Williamsburg, VA  23185-4147