Sara Walter Combs 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 then elected to the Court of Appeals in November 1994 and re-elected in 1999, 2006 and 2014.
She was also the first woman and first judge from the Eastern Kentucky counties of the 7th Appellate District to serve as chief judge of the Court of Appeals, a position she held from 2004 to 2010.
In 2022, the Court of Appeals judges honored Judge Combs for 28 years of service by naming their Frankfort courtroom for her.
Judge Combs is unopposed in the 2022 election and will start a new term on the Court of Appeals in January 2023.
The Kentucky Bar Association named Judge Combs as Outstanding Judge of the Year in 2010 and she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kentucky Women in Law Enforcement Network in 2014.
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 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 and the Louisville Bar Association. She also serves on the board of Lees College. She previously served for seven years on the Kentucky Appalachian Commission and for 20 years on the board of Pikeville College.