Retired Supreme Court Clerk Susan Stokley Clary honored

Clary retired Feb. 1, 2020, after serving more than 35 years with the Supreme Court, the last 25 years in the role of clerk.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – After a delay due to COVID-19, Kentucky’s circuit court clerks were able to pay tribute to Supreme Court Clerk Susan Stokley Clary (ret.), their longtime friend and colleague in the state court system.

Clary retired Feb. 1, 2020, after serving more than 35 years with the Supreme Court, the last 25 years in the role of clerk. As Supreme Court clerk, she was responsible for the custody, control and storage of all Supreme Court records, in addition to her roles as court administrator and general counsel. Earlier in her career, Clary was the first woman to serve as general manager of the Administrative Office of the Courts, the operations arm of the Judicial Branch.

Colby Slusher, circuit court clerk for Bell County and president of the Kentucky Association of Circuit Court Clerks, presented a gift to Clary during a luncheon in her honor at the 2021 Circuit Court Clerks Fall College in Louisville Oct. 12.

“Susan has been and will continue to be a friend to the circuit clerks across the commonwealth,” Slusher said. “The dedication, compassion, and professionalism that she brought to the courts will be forever missed and impossible to replace.”

Supreme Court Justice Michelle M. Keller, who worked with Clary for many years on the state’s highest court, was keynote speaker at the event. An excerpt from her remarks is below:

“As a young lawyer, I knew of Susan Clary well before she knew of me. I was working as an Assistant County Attorney, and one of my mentors suggested that I read the book she co-authored on Kentucky Juvenile Law. Susan had been a primary force in the adoption of what was at that time, a very progressive Juvenile Code. From that point forward, that book was always at my side if I was in a juvenile court docket. In addition to her work on the Code, Susan was instrumental in starting our Court Designated Worker program, and many CDWs owe the beginning of their careers to Susan.

“My good friend and former colleague, Justice Bill Cunningham, was fond of bestowing nicknames on all of us. He referred to Susan Clary as ‘Madame Institution.’ And one can see why. Her career with the Kentucky Supreme Court spanned nearly 40 years – working under three Chief Justices. In 1981, she began her career as a law clerk to Justice James B. Stephenson and then went on to be appointed as General Counsel in 1983, as well as Court Administrator in 1988, and finally, as Clerk of the Court in 1994. She served under Chief Justices Stephens, Lambert and Minton. She was one woman, wearing three different hats from 1994 until her retirement in 2020!

“Susan is the recipient of many well-deserved awards and honors over the years. In 2009, she was installed as President of the National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks and then in 2020, received their highest honor, the J.O. Sentell Award. Her awards are too numerous to list them all here, but in every sense of the word, Susan has been a trailblazer.

“She was a devoted wife to her beloved, Charlie, who she lost in 2009 after a long illness, which left her a single parent to her son, Nicholas. Despite all of the demands on Susan’s time professionally, she was an involved and nurturing parent to Nicholas. He is a handsome, kind, and accomplished young man, and so her greatest legacy is reflected in him. She somehow managed to balance it all, and she said in reflecting on her career: ‘Working in government won’t make you rich, and it’s not about the momentary glory – but you can see big victories.’

“The Juvenile Code, the Rose case (which changed the face of public education), the modernization of our Court system, and her attention to access to justice for those litigants before the Supreme Court who needed assistance, are all reflected in the indelible mark she has left on the Kentucky Court of Justice.”

In responding to the recognition, Clary said, “Circuit clerks are the backbone and heart of the court system, working to ensure that citizens of the commonwealth have access to justice. It has been my pleasure and honor to serve alongside you for over 35 years. I thank you so much. This means more to me than you will ever know.”

Clary earned her law degree from the University of Kentucky Rosenberg College of Law and is currently serving as vice president of the UK Rosenburg College of Law Alumni Association. She was recently appointed to the Kentucky Statewide Independent Living Council by Gov. Andy Beshear.

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