Retired Juvenile Court Judge Cliff Jolliff knew the middle table of his courtroom, the seat for Court-Appointed Special Advocate supervisor Cory Buckley, was not going to hold a shrinking violet.
“Cory could hold her own with any of the lawyers,” said Jolliff, who was a Juvenile Court judge for the entirety of Buckley’s 20-year career with CASA.
Buckley, 60, was involved in a May 24 wreck on Ga. 369/Browns Bridge Road and died Monday night from injuries sustained in the crash.
Cory Buckley and her husband, Warren Buckley, who was driving the car, were injured in the crash.
“Cory was a kind of person who was kind of larger than life and a force to be reckoned with,” Hall-Dawson CASA Executive Director Connie Stephens said. “She had the biggest heart of anyone that we ever knew.”
The other driver in the crash, 31-year-old Samuel Phillips of Flowery Branch, was charged with DUI, failure to maintain lane and serious injury by vehicle.
According to the Georgia State Patrol, Phillips’ Chevrolet Trailblazer crossed the center line and struck the Chevrolet Malibu carrying the Buckleys and their two grandchildren.
GSP Sgt. Richard Harper said Tuesday the charges for Phillips would be upgraded.
As a CASA supervisor, Buckley oversaw 30-plus volunteers by providing support, training and guidance for those who work with foster care children in the court system.
“She was passionate about her job,” Stephens said. “It wasn’t just a job for her. It was her purpose, I think, in life.”
Carol Werner, a second-year CASA, recalled Buckley’s encouragement during the beginning phases, holding hands for people getting ready to advocate for children in court hearings.
“Lots of times I would not really know what to do, because I didn’t have the scope and the wealth of knowledge that she did,” Werner said.
The passion Buckley had, Werner said, meant that no child would ever feel neglected or left behind.
Werner recounted a recent holiday where Buckley worked tirelessly to make sure children in CASA’s supervision received every Christmas gift under the organization’s Christmas tree.
“There it is, Christmas, and she’s not home decorating her own tree,” Werner said. “She’s at CASA … to make sure I got gifts to deliver to my CASA children.”
Though judges work to keep professional boundaries, Jolliff said he and Buckley grew to become comfortable with one another. She never held back, Jolliff said, from giving a recommendation or feedback on the system and the outcomes for the children.
“I always felt like she was somebody who would do anything she could to improve the process,” Jolliff said.
Jolliff presided over the wedding between Cory and Warren Buckley at a county park.
“We were dodging red ants, but that was the ultimate compliment of our friendship,” he said.
Stephens said she and a few others had an opportunity to say their goodbyes at the hospital. Members of the organization and others raised more than $10,000 for Buckley’s relief fund, expecting her bulldog-like tenacity to pull her through.
“It’s a great loss for this office, for this community and for the children of this community,” Stephens said.