Tennessee Supreme Court justice Cornelia Clark dies

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) – Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia Clark has died aged 71, the court said on Friday. She had been diagnosed with cancer.

According to a press release, Clark died overnight after 16 years in her role, serving the longest term of her counterparts in court as she sat on the bench for more than 1,100 Supreme Court cases. Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who chooses Clark’s replacement, called her a “pioneer for women in the legal profession.”

Clark was appointed to her seat in 2005 by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen and served as Chief Justice from 2010 to 2012. Chief Justice Roger Page said Clark, better known as Connie, “loved the Tennessee’s court system and improved it immeasurably. manners.”

“As a colleague for five and a half years, I have observed his tremendous work ethic,” Page said in the press release. “Her quick wit was surpassed only by her caring and caring heart. She really did her best to decide each case based on the applicable law and nothing else.

All of the remaining judges except one – Sharon Lee, who Bredesen also appointed – were appointed by former Gov. Bill Haslam, signaling a likely shift to the right for the tribunal with an appointment by Gov. Lee. The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments will recommend three candidates to the Governor, who will make his choice. The GOP qualified majority legislature must confirm the selection.

For now, the Supreme Court will hear cases with four justices, as it has done on several occasions before, including in 2016, when Justice Gary Wade retired and before Page’s appointment, the Court said. court spokesperson Barbara Peck.

Clark was notably re-elected in the retention elections in 2006 and 2014, when she was one of three Democratic judges, including Lee, who resisted a Tory campaign against them. Judges serve eight-year terms. Their next retention elections are in 2022.

“Our friendship grew stronger over the years as we faced challenges together – such as the contested retention election in 2014 – and through our laughs and good times as we joined with others. female judges at our Tennessee Chicks Rule dinners and when we traveled to Cuba to study its legal system, “Justice Lee said in the statement.” I saw first-hand the judge’s tireless dedication Clark to his faith, his family, his friends, justice and access to justice for all.

Prior to joining the court, Clark was Director of the Courts Administration Office from 1999 to 2005. She became the first female trial judge to sit in rural Tennessee counties when former Democratic Governor Ned McWherter appointed her. in 1989 to the 21st judicial district. from the counties of Williamson, Hickman, Perry and Lewis.

She has been involved in numerous initiatives within the justice system and has been involved in bar, community and religious organizations in Middle Tennessee and nationwide for over four decades. She has taught fellow judges at the National Judicial College, the American Academy of Judicial Education, and the American Institute for Justice, and taught students at Vanderbilt University School of Law and Nashville School of Law. She was also a life member of the First United Methodist Church in Franklin, where she served as a lay leader.

She was the court’s liaison with the Access to Justice Commission from 2014, helping the panel recently reach a long-term goal of having at least half of all attorneys in Tennessee providing pro bono legal services. every year.

The 1979 graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School practiced law in Nashville and Franklin, becoming one of the first female partners at a large Nashville law firm in 1984.

Her appointment in 2005 made her the fourth woman to serve on the state’s Supreme Court. She was only the second woman to become Chief Justice of Tennessee. Since 2008, the majority of Tennessee High Court judges have been women. With Clark’s passing there are now two men and two women until a replacement is installed.

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