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Chief Justice Kay McFarland Award

The McFarland Award is WAAT’s most prestigious honor and is given to a female attorney, judge, or justice of the local Topeka bar who meets the following criteria:

(1) Achieved professional excellence in her field;

(2) Influenced other women to pursue legal careers; or

(3) Opened doors for women lawyers in a variety of job settings that were historically were closed to them; or

(4) Advanced opportunities for women within a practice area or segment of the profession. 

2023 Recipient: Judge Mary E. Christopher

The Honorable Mary E. Christopher was sworn in on February 16, 2018, as a district court judge for the Third Judicial District. Before serving in the judiciary, Judge Christopher was a partner at Goodell, Stratton, Edmonds & Palmer, LLP; she worked as Staff Attorney at the Kansas Health Care Stabilization Fund; and she served as Research Attorney for the Honorable Bob Abbott at the Kansas Supreme Court. The letters written in support of Judge Christopher highlighted how she quietly mentored the women around her to become the best versions of themselves. 

In private practice, Judge Christopher ensured the environment at her firm was welcoming to bright young women attorneys, so both those women attorneys, and the firm, would thrive. Judge Christopher brought her mentorship qualities with her to the bench and continues to mentor women of all ages. Throughout her career, Judge Christopher has encouraged women to know their worth and to believe in themselves. 

Judge Christopher is also active in her community. She served on the Board of Directors of Let’s Help and she is a 2012 graduate of Leadership Greater Topeka. She was the president of the Women Attorneys Association of Topeka from 2006-2007 and served on the Board for several years. Judge Christopher is known in her local community of Silver Lake for wanting the community to thrive and for bringing out the best in all those she meets. Judge Christopher retired from the judicial branch on July 15th, 2023.

Past Recipients

2022:  Judge Nancy Parrish
2021:  Judge Cheryl Rios 
2020:  Barbara Rankin
2019:  Natalie Haag
2018:  Angel Zimmerman
2017:  Anne McDonald
2016:  Professor Linda Elrod
2015:  Judge Rebecca A. Sanders
2014:  Marty M. Snyder 
2013:  Judge Karen Arnold-Burger

2012:  Martha Hodgesmith

2011:  Carol Ruth Bonebrake

2010:  Carol Foreman

2009:  Judge Evelyn Z. Wilson

2008:  Judge Christel E. Marquardt

2007:  Justice Marla Luckert

2006:  Chief Justice Kay McFarland

(2019 Recipient Natalie Haag pictured here with 2009 Recipient Justice Evelyn Wilson)

(2018 Recipient Angel Zimmerman pictured here with 2007 recipient Justice Marla Luckert and 2017-18 WAAT President Whitney Casement)

(2017 Recipient Anne McDonald pictured here with 2013 recipient, Judge Karen Arnold-Burger and 2016-17 WAAT President Rachel Pickering)

In 2006, the Women Attorneys Association of Topeka created the Chief Justice Kay McFarland Award to honor her many accomplishments in the legal field.

The award recognizes an individual who has achieved professional excellence in her field and has influenced other women to pursue legal careers, opened doors for women lawyers in a variety of job settings that historically were closed to them, or advanced opportunities for women within a practice area or segment of the profession.



Remembering Chief Justice Kay McFarland      



On August 18, 2015, former Chief Justice Kay McFarland passed away at the age of 80. A charter member of this organization, Justice McFarland blazed the trail that many female attorneys now walk. She was the first woman elected to serve as a judge in Shawnee County, the first woman in Kansas to serve as a district judge, and the first female chief justice on the Kansas Supreme Court. Justice McFarland represented all the tenets of this organization and inspired many women to follow in her very prestigious footsteps. The McFarland Award is named for Justice McFarland and celebrates all the qualities she embodied. As women in the legal profession, we owe her a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid.


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