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 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 1999, in 2006, in 2014, and again in 2022.
The Kentucky Bar Association named Judge Combs as Outstanding Judge of the Year in June 2010. In 2014, Judge Combs received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kentucky Women in Law Enforcement Network.
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. In 2022, she published their story in: Bert Combs: The Fern Hill Years.