On July 15, 2002, by a voice vote, the US Senate confirmed Commissioner Lavenski Smith to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. This action followed a unanimous vote on June 27, 2002 in the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of his confirmation.

Commissioner Smith has a record of hostility toward reproductive rights as well as a notable lack of experience in dealing with cases involving federal constitutional issues.

Who is Lavenski Smith?

  • Commissioner Smith was born in 1958 in Hope, AR. He received a BA degree in 1981 from the University of Arkansas and a JD in 1987, also from the University of Arkansas.
  • From 1987-1991, Smith was a staff attorney for Ozark Legal Services. In 1991, he started his own private law practice, and continued working privately until 1994.
  • Smith also served as an Officer for the Rutherford Institute of Arkansas from 1991-1993.
  • In 1994, Smith began teaching as an Assistant Professor at John Brown University, where he continued to work until 1996. From 1996-1997, he worked as the Regulatory Liaison in the Office of Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR).
  • Smith was appointed by Gov. Huckabee as Chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission in 1997, a position that he served until 1999. In 1999, Gov. Huckabee appointed Smith to serve as an Associate Justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court. His term ended in 2000, and since then he has been the Commissioner of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, again appointed by Gov. Huckabee.
      Why does NCJW oppose Commissioner Smith's nomination?

  • Lavenski Smithís record demonstrates his hostility toward reproductive rights as well as a notable lack of experience in dealing with cases involving federal constitutional issues.
  • Smith is closely associated with the Rutherford Institute, an organization that is actively involved in trying to roll back abortion rights in courts across the country. In addition, the Institute openly questions the importance of the separation of religion and state and the authority of the Supreme Court. It has called upon the Supreme Court to reverse Roe v. Wade, claiming that it was an "error to classify a womanís decision to terminate her pregnancy as a fundamental right protected by the Fourteenth Amendmentís concept of personal liberty."
  • As an officer of the Arkansas chapter of the Rutherford Institute, Smith represented the "Unborn Child Amendment Committee" in its suit against the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (a public hospital) to bar the performance of all abortions, even those that were privately funded (Unborn Child Amendment Committee v. Dr. Harry Ward, 328 Ark. 454, 943 S.W.2d 591 (1997)). He argued that the Arkansas Constitution prohibited all abortion-related reproductive health care services at state hospitals. The Arkansas Supreme Court disagreed with this broad reading of the state constitution, and held that the hospital could perform abortions if the patient, her insurance, or another third party could pay for it in advance, or if it was necessary to save the motherís life.
  • During Smithís failed race for a seat on the Arkansas Court of Appeals, he accepted a campaign contribution from the Conservative Leadership for Arkansas Political Action Committee (PAC), which is run by anti-choice Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The governor stated that the purpose of this PAC is to promote "candidates who oppose abortion" ("Huckabeeís PAC Gives More Than $70,000 to Conservative Candidates," Associated Press State & Local Wire Service, Oct. 17, 2000).
  • Smith has little or no experience arguing cases in the federal courts. He has served as local counsel to larger lead law firms in federal cases, but the only case in any court in which Smith appears to have had a lead role in was the Unborn Child Amendment Committee case, which he lost on appeal.
  • Smith is an inexperienced judge. He spent less than two years on the Arkansas Supreme Court, during which time he issued few noteworthy opinions and dealt with only a few cases involving issues of federal law.

Who else opposes Commissioner Smith?

Alliance for Justice
National Abortion Federation
Planned Parenthood

Additional Information:

June 26, 2002
NCJW National President Urges Senator Leahy to Oppose Confirmation of Commissioner Lavenski Smith