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The Honorable Marsha K. Ternus

2015 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame Honoree:  The Honorable Marsha K. Ternus

“I have had the privilege of knowing Marsha Ternus since our high school days in Vinton, where she showed early signs of intellectual curiosity and ethical integrity. Over the years, I have seen Marsha break many barriers to women in the field of law. She was the first woman to become partner in her firm, she was the first woman to become president of the Polk County Bar Association, she was the first women to become Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court.”
--Sally Pederson, former Lt. Governor of Iowa

Marsha Ternus

Marsha Ternus is a native of Iowa, growing up on a farm in northern Benton County. She graduated from Washington High School in Vinton, and received her bachelor’s degree with honors and high distinction, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Iowa in 1972. She earned her law degree with honors, Order of the Coif, from Drake University Law School in 1977. While at Drake, Ms. Ternus served as editor-in-chief of the Drake Law Review. She has received honorary degrees from Iowa Wesleyan College (2005), Simpson College (2010), Coe College (2011) and Drake University (2015). She is admitted to practice law in the State of Iowa (1977) and the State of Arizona (1984, inactive status).

After law school, Ms. Ternus worked for sixteen years in the private practice of law in Des Moines, with a primary emphasis on civil litigation and insurance law. Ms. Ternus was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 1993 by Governor Terry Branstad. The members of the court selected her as Chief Justice in 2006, the first woman to serve in that role. Her court service ended on December 31, 2010.  During her seventeen years on the supreme court, Ms. Ternus worked on a number of court initiatives and other efforts to improve the administration of justice, including improving access to the courts and improving the courts oversight of cases involving abused and neglected children. In May of 2012, Ms. Ternus and two of her former colleagues on the court received the 2012 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. Ms. Ternus currently practices law in Des Moines, lectures and teaches nationally and internationally on various subjects, including judicial independence, and serves as the Director of The Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement at Drake University.