But when the county was approved for an additional resident judge’s position in 1998, Clary obtain a seat on the bench. He said there have been “no complaints” since then. But, as with every new job, there was a transition for the longtime attorney.
“When you’re in private practice or a prosecutor, you’re an advocate, so you have a position you are trying to convince someone to take, whether it’s the judge or jury, you’re trying to convince someone you’re right,” Clary said.
“But as judge, you’re on the receiving end of that,” he added. “You can’t be an advocate for either side. You have to listen. There have been times — jury trials particularly — when I listen to the closing arguments for the lawyers and I’m thinking ‘Why didn’t you say this, why didn’t you say that. You forgot about this one key piece of evidence that you should be hammering at the jury.’
“I still have those thoughts, but you have to set aside your personal feelings for the law of the Constitution.”
During his tenure on the bench, Clary has done more than hand down legal decisions. He was involved in the creation of a felony drug court, family drug court and mental health court. He has also seen the court’s continual transition into the modern age with the use of cameras in the courtroom as well as instant messaging and Facebook regularly tendered as pieces of evidence in cases.
Clary has handled a range of cases both as a private attorney, county prosecutor and as circuit judge. Despite the litany experiences, he said his preference lies in the area of criminal law and civil tort law.
While judge, Clary has experienced unique cases, such as declaring a 16-year-old girl in existence so she could obtain her driver’s license. The girl, who was born and home and had been home schooled, was “completely under the radar” with regard to documentation of her existence, Clary said, adding that the midwife who helped deliver the girl was called to testify in the case.