Court of Appeals Judge Sara Walter Combs named woman of distinction by Girl Scouts

FRANKFORT, Ky., Dec. 6, 2012 – Court of Appeals Judge Sara Walter Combs has been recognized as a woman of distinction by the Girl Scouts of Wilderness Road for being a positive role model for girls. The organization honored Judge Combs at its Women of Distinction event Nov. 5 in Lexington.

In celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts, the Wilderness Road group recognized 100 outstanding women who have made significant contributions to the lives of Kentuckians in Northern, Central and Eastern Kentucky. Judge Combs and 29 other living honorees were celebrated and received an award at the Women of Distinction event.

“It is a high honor indeed to be in the company of the outstanding women who have made Kentucky great and to be among the many who are endeavoring to maintain that tradition,” Judge Combs said.

The women were selected for professional accomplishments that make them positive role models for girls, inspiring girls to achieve their own goals and dreams. The women of distinction exemplify ethical leadership and a commitment to making a difference in the lives of their fellow citizens, according to the Girl Scouts. The honorees come from a variety of professional backgrounds, including education, finance, communications, non-profit management, law and philanthropy.

Judge Combs

Sara W. Combs was the first woman and the first judge from the Eastern Kentucky counties of the 7th Appellate District to serve as chief judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. She served in that role from June 2004 until May 2010.

Judge Combs also made history by being the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of Kentucky when then Gov. Brereton Jones appointed her to serve on the state’s highest court in l993. After she narrowly lost her election to retain that seat on the Supreme Court, Gov. Jones appointed her to fill a vacancy on the Court of Appeals in 1994. She was elected to the court in November 1994 and re-elected in 2000 and again in 2006.

The Kentucky Bar Association named Judge Combs as Outstanding Judge of the Year in June 2010.

Judge Combs ranked second in her class at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, which later honored her with a Distinguished Alumni Award. She was valedictorian at both Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville and U of L, where she obtained an undergraduate degree in French. She also earned her master’s degree in French from U of L, having been recognized as a Woodrow Wilson Designate.

Judge Combs has taught at the high school and university levels in addition to gaining broad experience in the practice of law. She began her career as an associate with Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs in Louisville before serving as corporate counsel to an advertising company. She also practiced law with her late husband, former Kentucky Gov. Bert T. Combs; established a solo practice in Stanton; and became a regional associate with the Louisville law firm of Mapother & Mapother.

She is affiliated with numerous professional, educational and civic organizations. She is a member of the Kentucky Bar Association, the Louisville Bar Association and the University Press of Kentucky. She also serves on the boards of Pikeville College and Lees College. She previously served for seven years on the Kentucky Appalachian Commission.

Judge Combs currently resides at Fern Hill in Stanton, the farm she shared with her late husband, Gov. Bert T. Combs.

Court of Appeals

Nearly all cases heard by the Kentucky Court of Appeals come to it on appeal from a lower court. If a case is tried in Circuit Court or District Court and the losing parties involved are not satisfied with the outcome, they may ask for a higher court to review the correctness of the trial court’s decision. Some cases, such as criminal case acquittals and divorces, may not be appealed. In a divorce case, however, child custody and property rights decisions may be appealed. Cases are not retried in the Court of Appeals. Only the record of the original court trial is reviewed, with attorneys presenting the legal issues to the court for a decision.

Fourteen judges, two elected from seven appellate court districts, serve on the Court of Appeals. The judges are divided into panels of three to review and decide cases, with the majority determining the decision. The panels do not sit permanently in one location, but travel throughout the state to hear cases.


Administrative Office of the Courts

The Administrative Office of the Courts in Frankfort is the operations arm for the state court system

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