Karen R. Smith
Professor of Law
A.B., Rhetoric, 1969, and J.D., 1972, University of California, Berkeley; Member, California State Bar
Phone: (213) 738-6803
Karen Smith brings to the classroom both a prosecution and defense view of criminal procedure on trial and appellate levels. She began her career as a prosecutor in the Criminal Division of the California Attorney General's Office. Several years later, she transferred to the State Public Defender's Office and eventually to the Federal Public Defender's Office where she was appointed senior deputy federal public defender.
"It is essential for law students to develop a good grasp of history and human behavior in order to practice law effectively."
Professor Smith joined the Southwestern faculty in 1982. In 1991, she became director of SCALE® Southwestern's accelerated two-year J.D. program, a position she held for the ensuing decade. She continues to teach in SCALE as well as the traditional program. Professor Smith was honored as the Irwin R. Buchalter Professor of Law in 1994, as the Irving D. and Florence Rosenberg Professor of Law in 2003, and as the Paul E. Treusch Professor of Law in 2006. She has also received the law school's Excellence in Teaching Award four times, most recently in 2010. Professor Smith approaches teaching as a means to "pass the torch of social responsibility," which she believes is particularly important in criminal procedure. "It is essential for law students to develop a good grasp of history and human behavior in order to practice law effectively," she says.
Beyond academia, Professor Smith has served on the Federal Indigent Defense Panel; the Magistrate Judge Merit Selection Panel; the ABA Criminal Justice Section's Standards Committee; and as a lawyer representative from the Central District to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference. She served as counsel to the general counsel of the Webster-Williams Commission investigating the police response to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and on the Los Angeles Work Group of the Ninth Circuit Gender Bias Task Force. Professor Smith lectured for many years on criminal procedure and related issues for the National Judicial College and the ABA Appellate Judges Seminars, and the news media often call on her to provide expert commentary on high profile criminal trials. She also serves on the board of the California Supreme Court Historical Society. In 2008, the John M. Langston Bar Association inducted Professor Smith into the organization's Hall of Fame in recognition of her contributions to the legal profession and legal education.
Crime, Punishment and the Central District, 36:2 SOUTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW 323 (2007)
United States v. Johnson: The Second Circuit Overcomes the Sentencing Guidelines' Myopic View of 'Not Ordinarily Relevant': Family Responsibilities and the Criminal Offender, 57 BROOKLYN LAW REVIEW 573 (1993)
How a Modified Roe Could Affect Many, SOUTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW (Spring 1989)
2009-2011 Excellence in Teaching Award
Inducted, Hall of Fame, John M. Langston Bar Association (2008)
Argued in re: Robbins, a death penalty habeas proceeding, California Supreme Court (May 1998)Member, Standards Committee, Criminal Justice Section, American Bar Association (1998-2001)