NSL Joins Legal Community in Mourning Justice Clark

Nashville School of Law joins the legal community and Tennesseans statewide in mourning the death of Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia “Connie” Clark. Clark had served on the faculty at NSL and was a longtime supporter of the School.

Justice Cornelia Clark giving the Oath of Professionalism to Nashville School of Law 1Ls.

President & Dean William C. Koch, Jr, noted that, in addition to being colleagues, he and Justice Clark were friends for a long time. They served on the Court together from 2006-2014, when Justice Koch became dean of the law school.

“I admire her effective work with the bench and the bar, and her unwavering support for Nashville School of Law and its students,” Koch said.

Justice Clark administered an oath of professionalism to incoming NSL students at several new student orientations. The students promise to be “committed to the pursuit of justice in the service of others and dignity for all,” something that Justice Clark embodied in her work and her life.

Her most recent visit to the School was in July, to give the oath to the incoming class of 2025.

“To have Justice Clark, a Tennessee Supreme Court Justice, leading us as we committed to ‘strive to live up to the high standards and principles expected of this honorable profession’ left a mark that I will not forget,” said Donnie Peslis, a 1L from Nashville.

“Not only will we as a class continue to strive toward this goal as is expected of the profession, but we will do it in honor of Justice Clark as she set the bar for what it means to be a lawyer in Tennessee,” he added.

Another 1L student honored the legacy that Justice Clark leaves behind in her work.

“She was a trailblazer for women in the law field in Tennessee, and her words of support and encouragement were a great inspiration to me. The fact that she took the time to be a part of our first steps at NSL shows that she truly cared about the future of the profession she served so dutifully. I look forward to learning from the words and opinions she leaves as her legacy,” said Jennifer Burch.

Justice Clark taught Dispositive Motions, an elective at the School. Kelli Woodward, a 2021 graduate, was a student in her class.

“Justice Clark was an outstanding woman, who taught with knowledge, kindness, and humility.  She always provided thoughtful, personalized feedback, allowing us all to become better.  She was quick to offer a helping hand when students were struggling, and it was clear that she believed in all of her students. I am both a better person and a better lawyer for having been able to learn from Justice Clark,” Woodward said.

2021 alumna Stefany Bonfield also was a student of Justice Clark’s.

“Not only do I believe that she was an essential member of the Court, especially during these trying times, but I feel honored to have known her as a caring professor. She was tough but fair – the best attributes in my opinion.,” Bonfield said. “I know she had so much more to give, so much more to teach. May she rest in peace, and may others see fit to pick up and carry her torch.”

See more about Justice Clark’s life and work as well as tributes to her at TNCourts.gov.

The Tennessee Supreme Court and the dean at the 2018 NSL Recognition Dinner. From left: Justice Roger Page, Justice Holly Kirby, Justice Cornelia Clark, Justice Bivins, President & Dean William C. Koch, Jr., Justice Sharon Lee.