Jean Shepherd

2012 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Jean Shepherd Portrait

Wyandotte High School, 1964

Jean Shepherd has been fighting the good fight all of her life – working for justice for children and families, and equal opportunities for women. And she has succeeded.

From 1984 to 2011, she served as a district court judge in Douglass County. She presided over the family court and was the first female judge in the county’s history.

Shepherd credits her first career as a teacher at Washington High School for setting the stage for her second career.

She aspired to be a teacher while she was in high school because it was a traditional role for women at that time. The women’s movement hadn’t started yet so law school never entered her mind. After earning a degree in English and secondary education from the University of Kansas in 1968, Shepherd returned home to Kansas City, Kansas and spent six years teaching English and serving as a cheerleading sponsor. She was exposed to the juvenile court system through some of her students, and it raised her awareness to the needs of families and children.

When Shepherd decided she needed to further her education, she thought about social work – another traditional woman’s role. However, a friend of hers who was in law school suggested she join him.

After graduating from law school in 1977, she was hired as an assistant district attorney in Douglas County, and served there until going into private practice. When she was appointed to her seat as a judge in 1984, she showed a special interest in child welfare and juvenile justice. She began presiding over the county’s family court system when it was established in 1994.

One of her proudest accomplishments is starting the Citizens Review Boards in Kansas. With no model or funding, she began one in Douglass County in 1986. Today there are boards throughout the state.