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'Tough as nails' Nikki Ann Clark takes 1st DCA bench

With great ceremony and a standing room only crowd that overflowed into a nearby TV room, Judge Nikki Ann Clark Friday became the first black woman to serve on the First District Court of Appeal.

Described as a “tough as nails’’ judge with a “warm and inviting smile,’’ Clark is leaving a 15-year career as a circuit judge to become one of 15 judges on the state’s largest and most important appellate court. She was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to replace Judge Ricky L. Polston who was recently named to the Florida Supreme Court.

A former cabinet aide and one of seven children who all gained advanced degrees in college, Clark was honored for innovations like the creation of a unified family court in Leon County and the fame she gained in 2000 while hearing several of the election lawsuits brought over the election of President George W. Bush.

Clark has since traveled three times to help judges appointed after a civil war in Liberia.

At a seminar she conducted for Liberia’s Supreme Court where judges were risking their lives for the rule of law, Clark said Liberians asked her how it felt to be a judge in the midst of a Constitutional crisis.

Lucy Morgan