H.T. Smith

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H.T. Smith
Director of the Trial Advocacy Program

J.D., University of Miami School of Law
B.A., Florida A & M University

Professor H.T. Smith’s passion for a cause and his effective advocacy skills were evidenced early on when he persuaded the University of Miami School of Law to admit him before ever taking the Law School Admission Test. His argument: It is unfair to punish a man for not being able to take a test that was not also being administered in the jungles of Vietnam, where Professor Smith had just finished fighting for his country.

And so, for the past 40 years, Professor Smith has practiced law in Miami, specializing in civil rights, personal injury, and criminal defense. He is listed in Best Lawyers in America, Florida Super Lawyers, and Law and Leading American Attorneys. In 1997, the National Law Journal recognized him as one of America’s Top 10 trial lawyers of the year.

Professor Smith has blazed trails in his legal career – as Miami-Dade County’s first African-American assistant public defender, and then as the county’s first African-American assistant county attorney. He was the founding President of the Black Lawyers Association of Dade County (now known as the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Bar Association), President of the Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter of the National Bar Association, and President of the National Bar Association, with a membership of 40,000 strong.

In the landmark case of Aubrey Livingston v. State of Florida, Professor Smith successfully reversed his client’s death sentence by convincing the Florida Supreme Court that it is reversible error for a jury in a capital case to recess once they begin deliberations. Professor Smith was also one of the lead attorneys in the successful effort to block a constitutional amendment that would have outlawed affirmative action in public education, public employment, and public contracting in Florida.

Indeed, Professor Smith has devoted his entire legal career to “agitating” for justice, wherever discrimination rears its ugly head. He has chaired the Coalition for a Free South Africa, leading the charge to insist that South Florida governmental entities and universities divest their financial interests in companies doing business in apartheid South Africa. He chaired the Declaration of Rights Committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, championing an amendment to make explicit that equal protection of the law is available to women and persons born outside of the United States. Also, he has fought for equal rights for people regardless of sexual orientation, when he served as co-chair of the successful “Say No To Discrimination” referendum in Miami-Dade County.

In 2003, FIU tapped Professor Smith to become founding Director of the Trial Advocacy Program. Under his leadership, the Program has gained recognition as one of the best among all Florida law schools, and in just 10 years, FIU’s Trial Team has won regional and national mock trial competitions.

In addition, the student body has honored Professor Smith with the “Pioneer Award” for his innovative excellence as a legal educator, and the university has bestowed upon him its “Top Scholars” award.

Professor Smith earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics from Florida A&M University and his Juris Doctorate Degree from the University of Miami.

He teaches Trial Advocacy and Advanced Trial Advocacy.