Annabelle Davis Clinton Imber Tuck became the first woman elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1997. As a chancery judge, she made the first ruling in the Lake View school district case, which would eventually reshape the financing of public education in Arkansas.
Born in Heber Springs, much of her childhood was spent outside of the country as her father worked in international development in Bolivia and Brazil. When her father was transferred to Nigeria when she was 14, Annabelle finished high school while living with her brother’s family in a suburb of Washington D.C. She attended college in Massachusetts and graduated with a degree in political science. She started paralegal training in Pennsylvania, and then moved to Houston to work and attend the Bates College of Law at the University of Houston. In 1975, she moved to Little Rock, finished her law degree and joined the firm of Wright, Lindsey and Jennings, where she would become a partner.
In 1984, she was appointed to the Pulaski County Circuit Court by then-Governor Bill Clinton. Four years later, she was elected chancery and probate judge for Pulaski and Perry Counties. In this role, she handed down the first ruling in the Lake View school case, in which the school district sued the state on the grounds of unequal funding of schools. She ruled the state did not meet the promise of providing “suitable” education and equal educational opportunities for each child regardless of where they lived.
This set in motion a nearly 10-year-long examination of the inadequacies in the state’s education system. The Supreme Court decision in 2002, and decisions made thereafter, meant changes in taxes and school administration and brought permanent mandates that would change how school programs were funded. In 1998, she was named one of the “Top 100 Women in Arkansas.”
As a Supreme Court justice, she was the author of the first decision to remove legal prohibitions against homosexual activity. Her opinion was cited as a precedent in 2011, when the Court struck down a voter-led act which would prohibit same sex couples from adopting children or becoming foster parents. She was cited again in 2014 when a judge struck down the state’s prohibition against same sex marriage.
In her retirement, she serves as a Public Service Fellow/Jurist-in-Residence at the William H. Bowen School of Law and advocates for fair access to the legal system through the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission, created by the state Supreme Court in 2003. In 2010, the Arkansas Bar Foundation presented her with its Equal Justice Distinguished Service Award for her work to raise awareness among her colleagues for legal aide and each attorney’s ethical obligation to provide pro bono services.
In connection with implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act, she served three years on the Insurance Commissioner’s Plan Management Advisory Committee, followed by service on the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace Board from July 2013 until November 2015.