Justice Annabelle Imber Tuck

Needing better pay after losses in the cattle market, her father took a job with the International Cooperation Administration, the predecessor to the U.S. Agency for International Development, when Davis was five, and the family moved to La Paz, Bolivia, where her father worked with Campesinos to improve their farming methods. She attended a British school at La Paz, but five years later, her father was transferred to Brazil, and she lived and went to school in Rio de Janeiro for four years while her father commuted to drought-stricken northern regions.

When her father was transferred to Nigeria in 1964, she returned to the United States to live with her brother’s family in a Maryland suburb of Washington DC, where she finished high school. In 1971, she graduated from Smith College, a private liberal arts college for women in Northhampton, Massachusetts, with a degree in political science. She undertook paralegal training in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, before moving to Houston, Texas.

In 1975, Annabelle Clinton moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), finished law school in 1977 at what is now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, and joined the law firm of Wright, Lindsey, and Jennings. In 1984, Governor Bill Clinton appointed her to a vacant criminal division judgeship on the Pulaski County Circuit Court. Four years later, she was elected chancery and probate judge for Pulaski and Perry counties.

While a chancery judge in Pulaski County in 1994, she handed down the first ruling in the Lake View school case. The tiny Lake View School District in Lake View (Phillips County) sued the state on the grounds that the vastly unequal funding of schools in Arkansas violated the constitutional promise that the state would provide a “suitable” education for each child and that the educational opportunities would be equal regardless of where a child lived. Judge Imber issued an order declaring the state’s system of funding and operating its public schools unconstitutional and gave the Arkansas General Assembly two years to produce schools that guaranteed every child the same opportunity for a good education, as the state constitution required. Ten years later, the case, Lake View School District No. 25 v. Huckabee, resulted in sweeping reforms, including school consolidation and changes in tax structures, that the Supreme Court declared had finally complied with the judge’s original order.

In the interim, in 1996, she was elected justice of the Supreme Court without opposition. As a justice, Imber was the author of the first decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court removing the legal prohibitions against homosexual activity. The U.S. Supreme Court, upholding state laws making homosexual activity illegal (Bowers v. Hardwick, 1986), had found no privacy protection for same-sex couples in the U.S. Constitution and no such rights under the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. But Imber found those rights in the Arkansas Constitution in Jegley v. Picado, which the Arkansas Supreme Court rendered in 2002. The next year, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed its ruling in Bowers and found those protections in the U.S. Constitution. Imber’s opinion was cited as precedent in 2011 when the state Supreme Court struck down an act adopted by the voters in 2008 that barred same-sex couples from adopting children or serving as foster parents, and again in 2014 when Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down the state’s constitutional prohibition against same-sex marriages and civil unions. She was re-elected twice before retiring in 2010.

Imber-Tuck has also served the community in numerous volunteer leadership roles including President of the Association of Arkansas Women Lawyers, Secretary-Treasurer of the Arkansas Bar Association, Chair of Arkansas Access to Justice Commission, Board Director of Congregation B’Nai Israel, and Vice President of the Board for Our House shelter for the working homeless. She has also been recognized for her professional and civic contributions with awards such as the Arkansas Bar Association’s Golden Gavel Award for Exemplary Service to the Legal Profession, Arkansas Association of Women Lawyers Judge of the Year Award, Arkansas Business Top 100 Women to Watch and the Jewish Federation of Arkansas’s Jane B. Mendel Tikkun Olam (“Repairing the World”) Award to name a few.

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