Cleckley left so many with a legacy of hope

Originally published to the Dominion Post's Letter to the Editor Section

As a West Virginia University law graduate, I was privileged to have been a law school student of professor Franklin D. Cleckley, the pre-eminent trial lawyer and state Supreme Court justice who passed away on Aug. 14. With his passing, I lost a mentor, teacher, and a friend. 

His fast-moving, energy-filled evidence and criminal procedure classes together with his civil rights and human rights seminars were outstanding example of his intellect and understanding of the practical approaches to law. 

Professor Cleckley was a scholar's scholar: An esteemed educator who published extensively, researched thoroughly and who taught and practiced the essence of what American law is all about. Both his classes embodied knowledge and ethics, practice and procedures. His life fully included family, friends, clients, the poor, the powerful, and the political. 

After he was appointed to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals by Gov. Gaston Caperton, in 1994, his collegial approach to decision-making and his opinion writing greatly enhanced the workings and the machinations of trial courts in our state. 

The breadth of his life dominated judicial and legal circles throughout West Virginia as an authority. 

Cleckley's life, by any reasonable standard, was an extraordinary life. The many students he had in class, the client he represented who would never have had counsel, his published opinions and books, and his commentary on our court rules reflected not only the work of a brilliant man but an individual with an incredible drive to make people understand and to shape our state to the basic principles he cherished. 

His life's work in the law, to me, is a lasting one. His faith in others will be handed down for generations. 

His patience and his magnetic personality left optimism in so many where hope of success seemed only a dream. 

Tod J. Kaufman 
Kanawha County 
Circuit Court judge