On February 11, 2014, Visiting Associate Professor Charles C. Jalloh spoke on the topic of his recent book, Sierra Leone Special Court and Its Legacy: The Impact for Africa and International Criminal Law, at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
To commemorate Black History Month, FIU Law’s Black Law Student Lawyers Association (BLSA) wanted to do something historic that would have a lasting impact not only on the organization, but on the College of Law. So its board of directors in a unanimous decision, voted to rename itself the H.T. Smith Black Law Students Association in honor of Professor H.T. Smith and his lifelong contributions to seek fairness and justice. For BLSA President Guybert “Jimmy” Paul, renaming the organization was simple. “Professor Smith has paved the way for men like me, if he hadn’t been as brave as he was all those years ago, the world I live in today would be very different,” he said.
There is no doubt that the world H.T. Smith was born into looks very different than the world today. Some of those changes were made possible by Smith’s passion for helping to level the playing field for African American lawyers and for defeating all forms of discrimination. Born in Miami’s Overtown community, Smith grew up under the restrictions of the Jim Crow laws, but despite the segregation he experienced as a young boy, he went on to do great things. Smith graduated from Florida A & M University and then went on to serve in the Vietnam War. While overseas, he decided that he wanted to attend law school. He put his ‘passionate, principled advocacy’ to the test when he convinced the University of Miami to admit him despite not taking the LSAT. He advocated that it would be unfair to punish a man for not taking a test that was not being administered in Vietnam. After successfully earning his Juris Doctorate, Smith became a trailblazer for the African American legal community where he was the first African American assistant public defender, Miami-Dade County’s first African-American assistant county attorney and was the founding president of the Black Lawyers Association. His awards and recognitions from more than 40 years of work could fill the walls of the College of Law. His most recent accolade – the Cal Kovens Distinguished Community Service Award – occurred during FIU’s commencement exercises in December 2013, and his experiences with local, state, national and international leaders places him in an elite class. Irrespective of all of his many acknowledgments, the renaming of the BLSA is very special to him.
“I have been blessed to receive many awards, but this singular honor comes from students, and as a teacher what is better than getting recognition from those who know you?,” Smith said. “It’s very heartwarming.”
Smith has been practicing law for nearly four decades focusing on criminal defense, civil rights and personal injury cases. Ten years ago, FIU Law 2003 invited him to direct its Trial Advocacy Program which brought together his passion for legal storytelling and his natural abilities to teach and mentor into his perfect role: Professor.
“When I first started here and I would walk the halls, I would hear students call out, ‘Professor, Professor,’ I would turn around not knowing who they were calling out to and then I realized it was me and I like the sound of it!” It has been the students who have made juggling a law practice and his role with the Trial Advocacy program enjoyable and rewarding. “Teaching keeps me on the cutting edge of my profession, every day I learn from teaching and I just love the students,” Smith shared. Smith goes on to say that the support from the Dean, the faculty and the staff help make the program such a success.
As the BLSA moves into its new name, there’s no doubt that it will carry with it H.T. Smith’s fighting and compassionate spirit.
The renaming of the BLSA organization to the H.T. Smith Black Law Students Association will take place on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 7 p.m.at FIU College of Law RDB 11200 SW 8 Street, Miami, FL 33199.
FIU alumna Mary Olszewska ’09 was featured in the Daily Business Review for her work as second chair trial counsel for a case that was bifurcated into liability and damage trials.
Professor M.C. Mirow has just published a book review of Alejandro Guzmán-Brito’s, Codificación del derecho civil e interpretación de las leyes: las normas sobre interpretación de las leyes en los principales códigos civiles europeo-occidentales y americanos emitidos hasta fines del siglo xix in the inaugural volume of Comparative Legal History, the official journal of the European Society of Comparative Legal History. The subject of the book is the presence or absence of provisions in civil codes that dictate the way judges should interpret the codes. Guzmán-Brito wants to answer the questions of why some codes have provisions guiding judicial interpretation and others do not and of what considerations about law, more generally, in the age of codification led to particular kinds of code provisions.
Mirow’s review may be found at here.
Last week, Professor Megan Fairlie presented on part of her current research agenda, the fair trial concerns raised by the use of replacement judges in international war crimes trials. The presentation was part of the Annual Meeting of the Junior International Law Scholars Association. Professor Fairlie also contributed to the event by serving as a commentator, discussing the sentencing practices of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Moot Court team member, Paula Barbieri Janvion shares her Price Media Law Moot Court Competition experiences which took place at the Cardozo University in New York City. Read her story here.
Read Professor Howard Wasserman new article Football and the Infield Fly Rule, published in UCLA L. Rev. Discourse.