Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark retires

photo of Cobb Superior Court building from the front with a blue sky with clouds in the background

Cobb County distributed the following press release announcing the retirement of long-time Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark:

March 18, 2022 –Judge Mary Staley Clark, who has served as a Cobb County judge since 1982, has announced her retirement. Her last day will be May 1, 2022.

“It will take time to adjust to not being on the bench every day. Of course, I’ll continue to help as a senior judge, but I am looking forward to getting married this spring and being able to spend more time with my parents and family,” Judge Staley Clark said.

She was elected to the Superior Court bench in 1992 and served as Chief Judge from 2005 to 2007. An advocate and pioneer of accountability courts, she helped create Cobb’s Mental Health Court in 2013, and she now presides over Cobb’s Drug Treatment Court. She has practiced law since 1978, when she earned her Juris Doctor at the University of Georgia and went to work as a criminal prosecutor under District Attorney Thomas Charron.

“She has expertly tried some of the most difficult cases over the years,” Charron said. “I cannot think of a better trial judge.”

Before joining Superior Court, she was elected to Magistrate Court in 1982 and then to Division I of State Court in 1984. Judge Staley Clark was elected, without opposition, to every position she ever held and was the first female initially elected to any judgeship in Cobb County.

Senior Judge Stephen Schuster lauded her as “one of the original women to break through the glass ceiling and achieve a Superior Court Judgeship.”

“She has been a leader in promoting accountability courts,” Schuster said. “Judge Staley Clark realized there was a better way to treat those with illness than incarceration. She saved many lives and returned many in our population to be good citizens.”

Throughout her tenure, Judge Staley Clark has been equally active outside the courtroom. She was a member of the 1996 Class of Leadership Georgia, and she co-authored a volume of Georgia Jurisprudence on family law.

Judge Staley Clark was also instrumental in establishing Cobb’s Family Law Workshop, a free monthly seminar for self-represented litigants.

From 2014 to 2015, she served as president of both the Kiwanis Club of Marietta and the Council of Superior Court Judges of Georgia, which sets rules for the hundreds of judges that sit in the state’s 50 judicial circuits. Judge Staley Clark also served as an officer on the Council of Accountability Court Judges until this year.

Chief Judge Rob Leonard said Judge Staley Clark is irreplaceable. “As Chief Judge, I’ve relied upon her wisdom and depth of experience on many occasions. She will certainly be missed by everyone, and I look forward to her joining our group of distinguished Senior Judges following her appointment by the Governor.” Judge Ann Harris agreed, saying “As a young lawyer I was a bit in awe of Judge Staley Clark. She has been a great friend to me and a wonderful, wise colleague on the bench.”

Post-retirement, she looks forward to joining her fiancé and soon-to-be-husband, Chuck Perry, at his ranch and vineyard in Rockmart. Judge Staley Clark also intends to spend more time with her parents, Dr. Irving and Mrs. Anne Staley.

“My parents raised me to be honest, work hard, study hard, and be kind and courageous. They put me on the path I’ve been so blessed to travel these 40 years,” she said. “And, of course, my late husband, Chuck Clark, was a great source of strength, love, and support.”

“I am thankful for so much,” Judge Staley Clark said. “I am thankful for the vision and courage Tom Charron showed in hiring female prosecutors for the first time in the office’s history, and I am thankful that the Mental Health Court and Drug Treatment Court helped people live better lives.”

“And, I am thankful for the wonderful Cobb community that gave me the privilege to serve as a judge and administer justice these many years. Cobb is a wonderful place with the best bench in Georgia.”

Governor Brian Kemp will appoint a successor to serve the remainder of Judge Staley Clark’s term, which runs through 2024.