March 2017

New Chief Judge for the Court of Appeals

On March 11, 2017, Judge Lavenski R. Smith succeeded Judge William Jay Riley as Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. He is the first African American to serve as the Courtís Chief Judge.
Judge Smith was born in Hope, Arkansas, on October 31, 1958. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas in 1981 and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1987.
After graduating from law school, he went to work as a law clerk in private practice and then as a staff attorney for Ozark Legal Services, where he specialized in consumer defense and representation of juveniles as a guardian ad litem. In 1991, he opened a solo practice, the Smith Law Office in Springdale, Arkansas, where he handled a variety of civil cases. It was the first minority-owned law firm in Springdale.
Smith became a full-time assistant professor of business law and business ethics at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas in 1994, and then worked as a regulatory liaison at the Arkansas Governorís Office from 1996 to 1997. In 1997, he was appointed Chair of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, where he served until his appointment to the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1999, completing the term of the retired Justice David Newbern. He was then appointed for the second time to the Arkansas Public Service Commission in 2001.

In July 2002, Smith was appointed to succeed Judge Richard S. Arnold on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. After nearly 15 years of distinguished service, he will serve as the Courtís Chief Judge.

Congratulations, Chief Judge Smith!