To borrow an analogy from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., if legal professionals are baseball gamers and judges are umpires, then Greg Smith not solely calls balls and strikes, he additionally throws them and tries to hit them.
Smith is a household lawyer in Tennessee. When he’s not practising regulation, he’s deciphering it—serving as a decide at three completely different ranges of presidency. He serves as a municipal court docket decide in Nice View, Tennessee, which is about 25 miles northwest of Nashville.
He’s additionally lively in Native American justice, serving as a decide on a number of tribal courts, and he’s been chief decide of the U.S. Division of the Inside’s Court docket of Indian Appeals since 2018.
In reality, he was a decide earlier than he was even a lawyer. “Throughout regulation faculty, I used to be a Justice of the Peace in Birmingham, Alabama,” Smith recollects. “I did an evening court docket identical to Harry Anderson [on the NBC present Night time Court docket]. I used to be capable of be appointed a municipal Justice of the Peace earlier than I bought my diploma” from Samford College’s Cumberland Faculty of Legislation in 1988.
“The midnight Justice of the Peace job primarily did preliminary appearances and signed warrants,” he recollects. “It will be much like a justice of the peace place like Nevada nonetheless has.
“The place was appointed by the chief decide of the Birmingham metropolis court docket on the advice of a dean from my regulation faculty. There have been a number of college students who held this job whereas I used to be in class.”
He opened up his solo follow in Clarksville in 1993. 4 years later, he was appointed a municipal court docket decide in Nice View.
“I bought probably the greatest items of judging recommendation from former Choose John Godbold of the U.S. Court docket of Appeals for the 11th Circuit:
“ ‘Hardly anybody is aware of who you might be, however they’ll resolve from what they see of you as a decide as a result of everybody in a small city will know the native site visitors decide.’ ”
Requested about moral points which may come up in working as a lawyer and a decide, Smith says, “It’s not all that onerous. Nice View is a site visitors court docket primarily and [is located in] the subsequent county over. You simply recuse your self if a possible battle comes up.”
As a lawyer, Smith is a educated advocate for his purchasers, in response to Ray Runyon, accomplice at Runyon & Runyon in Clarksville.
As a decide, he finds Smith “respectful to each the bench and opposing counsel.”
“He’s a throwback to a unique period inasmuch as he strikes at a slower, extra thought of tempo,” Runyon says. “I feel that this enables him to suppose successfully on behalf of his purchasers.”
Relating to Native American justice, he presides over circumstances in a number of jurisdictions. Along with his Court docket of Indian Appeals gig, Smith serves as chief justice of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Indians Supreme Court docket. He additionally sits as a justice of the Stockbridge-Munsee Court docket of Appeals, justice of the Bishop Paiute Court docket of Appeals and chief justice of the Pawnee Nation Supreme Court docket. As well as, he’s an alternate appellate decide for the Gila River Indian Group Court docket of Appeals.
In accordance with Smith, his curiosity in Indian regulation got here from being appointed guardian advert litem for a new child Native American toddler at Fort Campbell, which straddles Tennessee and Kentucky.
The toddler was faraway from the parental residence as a result of the mother and father repeatedly dunked a unique little one left of their care within the bathtub as a type of self-discipline.
That little one drowned throughout a dunking episode in 1992, and the daddy was convicted of second-degree homicide. The mom was convicted as an adjunct.
“This case piqued my curiosity as a result of I needed to home this child till the [Sioux] tribe might come get her,” says Smith, recalling how the differing circumstances of every child—his little one would have a reasonably pampered life whereas the opposite child would in all probability by no means meet her mother and father—broke his coronary heart.
Finally, relating to juggling his myriad obligations, Smith harks again to a bit of recommendation he remembers from one other decide.
“Choose Arthur Haynes Jr. [of the Jefferson County, Alabama, circuit court] had just a little signal on his bench that stated: ‘The job doesn’t pay sufficient to be a jerk.’ “So I say take a recess whenever you’re shedding your objectivity,” he says.
This text ran within the Winter 2019-2020 challenge of the ABA Journal with the headline “Juggling Act: Tennessee legal professional Greg Smith balances his regulation agency’s calls for with duties as a decide in native, federal and Native American courts.”