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History-making former La. Chief Justice honored with statue

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NEW ROADS - Family, friends, former colleagues, and prominent members of the legal community honored the career and legacy of former Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court Catherine "Kitty" Kimball by unveiling a large, bronze statue in front of the 18th Judicial District Courthouse in Pointe Coupee Parish.

The whole thing was a surprise.

"I was told this was some sort of thing for the sheriff," Kimball said after the reveal.

It's a well-warranted honor bestowed on only a few. Kimball's legal career spans nearly four decades. She was the first female attorney to own a law office in New Roads, the first woman elected to the bench of the 18th JDC in 1983, the first woman elected to the State Supreme Court in 1993, and ultimately the first female Chief Justice.

Tony Clayton, District Attorney for Pointe Coupee, West Baton Rouge, and Iberville Parishes, told the crowd and Kimball before the unveiling, "Justice Kimball, you deserve this. For hundreds and hundreds of years you will have a statue."

Clayton's bond with Kimball and her family is special. He calls her his "mother-in-law" and mentor in what has become a successful career as well.

"She epitomizes the true meaning that justice is blind," Clayton said. "She deserves it. They were going to put six generals on this courthouse lawn, and I thought they needed a female. And who else better to honor than Justice Kimball?"

State Supreme Court Chief Justice John Weimer presided over the ceremony and praised Justice Kimball for her hard work and dedication to our system of justice and her work to essentially "write the book" on Juvenile Justice Reform.

"Being called a trailblazer today is easy enough to say," Weimer said. "But being one decades ago meant facing bias and prejudice and being questioned and being told, 'You just don't know your place, little girl.'"

That line drew laughter and a smirk from Justice Kimball, but it was the reality of the times.

Judge Tonya Lurry, who now sits on the bench of the 18th JDC, said some of that has continued to change slowly.

"To put that into perspective, almost 40 years later, I'm only the fourth female [elected]," Lurry said. "We also have the third female here, and we've both been elected within the last five years."

Clayton, Lurry, and others describe Justice Kimball as, "a mother to a lot more than just her family."

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