NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia A. Clark died overnight after a short battle with cancer. She was 71.
The Tennessee Supreme Court confirmed her death Friday morning, saying her “public service to the judiciary and her community spanned over four decades.”
Justice Clark was first appointed to the Supreme Court in 2005 by former Gov. Phil Bredesen and was reelected in 2006 and 2014.
“Justice Clark was a wonderful human being and proved an outstanding justice on our Supreme Court. Her reputation for fairness and grace offers a model for anyone seeking to serve the public. It was an honor to know her, and I will miss her," Bredesen said in a statement.
Clark served as Chief Justice from 2010 to 2012 and was one of three Democratic justices who withstood a conservative campaign against them in the 2014 judicial retention elections.
Chief Justice Roger Page says Clark loved the Tennessee judicial system and made it better in immeasurable ways.
“Justice Clark was a member of the Tennessee judicial family for over 30 years and has mentored hundreds of judges... as her colleague for the past five and one-half years, I observed her tremendous work ethic. Her keen mind was surpassed only by her kind and caring heart. She truly tried her best to decide each case based on the applicable law and nothing else. The Supreme Court will not be the same without her," Chief Justice Roger A. Page said in part.
Justice Clark had the longest tenure of the Justices currently serving on the Supreme Court.
"She was well-known for precise and detailed legal analysis and writing style, as well as being an active and thoughtful questioner during oral arguments. In total, she was on the bench for more than 1,100 Supreme Court cases," the Tennessee Supreme Court said.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee will choose the next justice from those recommended by the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments. Lee released the following statement:
“Maria and I are deeply saddened by the news of Justice Connie Clark’s passing. Throughout her five decades of public service, including 16 years on the Tennessee Supreme Court, Justice Clark was a fierce advocate for justice and a trailblazer for women in the legal profession. She also made a profound impact on our state as an active member of her church and the Franklin community. We are praying for the Clark family and join Tennesseans in honoring her incredible life and legacy. Flags across the state will fly at half-staff in Justice Clark’s honor.”