Justice Kaye Hearn was elected to the South Carolina Supreme Court in May of 2009, becoming only the second woman member in the court's history. Prior to her election to the state’s highest court, Justice Hearn was a member of the South Carolina Court of Appeals for fifteen years, serving as its Chief Judge for ten years. During her tenure as Chief Judge, Justice Hearn served as President of the Council of Chief Judges, a nationwide network of chief judges of the intermediate courts of appeal.
From 1986 until her election to the Court of Appeals in 1995, she served as a Family Court Judge. Prior to going on the bench, Justice Hearn was a trial attorney with the firm of Stevens, Stevens, Thomas, Hearn, and Hearn, and served as a member of the South Carolina Board of Bar Examiners. Immediately upon graduation from law school, she served as law clerk to South Carolina Supreme Court Justice Julius B. Ness.
Justice Hearn received her B.A., cum laude, from Bethany College in 1972 and her J.D., cum laude, from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1977. She received an L.L.M. from the University of Virginia’s Graduate Program for Judges in May 1998; an honorary Doctor of Laws from the Charleston School of Law in 2010; an honorary Doctor of Humanities from Francis Marion University in 2011; and an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of South Carolina in 2013. In 2004, Justice Hearn was honored with a portrait by the South Carolina's Trial Lawyers Association. In 2010, she received the South Carolina Women Lawyers Association's Jean Galloway Bissell Award; in 2011, she was honored with an award in celebration of Inspiring Women from Coastal Carolina University; and in 2012, Governor Nikki Haley presented her the Woman of Achievement Award from the South Carolina Commission on Women. In 2013, Justice Hearn received the Bethany College Alumni Achievement Award and was named an Alpha Xi Delta Woman of Distinction. Justice Hearn presently serves as Chair of the Chief Justice's Docket Management Task Force and is a member of the ABA's IOLTA Commission.
Justice Hearn is married to the Honorable George M. Hearn, Jr., a Conway attorney and former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. They have one daughter, Kathleen, who is also an attorney in Conway. Justice Hearn enjoys cooking, cycling, and singing in her church choir.