Jerry Edwin Smith

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Jerry Edwin Smith
Judge Jerry Edwin Smith.jpg
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Assumed office
December 21, 1987
Appointed by Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Seat established
Personal details
Born (1946-11-07) November 7, 1946 (age 72)
Del Rio, Texas, U.S.
Alma mater Yale University

Jerry Edwin Smith (born November 7, 1946) is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.[1] He was nominated by President Ronald Reagan on June 2, 1987 and confirmed by the Senate on December 19, 1987. Smith received his commission for the seat two days later.[2]

Smith attended Yale University and Yale Law School, earning his bachelor's degree in 1969 and his J.D. in 1972. After law school, he clerked for Judge Halbert O. Woodward on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Smith later served as the director of the Harris County Housing Authority (1978–1980), Special Assistant Attorney General of Texas (1981–1982), chairman of the Houston Civil Service Commission (1982–1984), and the City Attorney for Houston, Texas (1984–1987).

Notable cases

Smith wrote the majority opinion in Hopwood v. Texas, 78 F.3d 932 (5th Cir. 1996), in which the Fifth Circuit struck down the use of affirmative action in admissions at the University of Texas School of Law. Seven years later, the decision was abrogated[further explanation needed] by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003).

In Corrosion Proof Fittings v. EPA, 947 F.2d 1201 (5th Cir. 1991), Judge Smith wrote the panel opinion that required the United States Environmental Protection Agency to use cost-benefit analysis when deciding whether to ban a toxic substance.

In Regents of the University of California v. Credit Suisse First Boston, 482 F.3d 372 (5th Cir. 2007), Smith wrote the majority opinion barring securities fraud claims against third parties who aided in securities fraud but did not directly mislead investors. The decision was upheld by the Supreme Court in Stoneridge Investment Partners v. Scientific-Atlanta, 552 U.S. 148 (2008).

Smith was one of three judges on a panel that heard the appeal to Hornbeck Offshore Services LLC v. Salazar, a case challenging the U.S. Department of the Interior's six-month moratorium on exploratory drilling in deep water that was adopted in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the subsequent oil spill. The lower court had struck down the Department of the Interior's moratorium as arbitrary and capricious government action, and the Fifth Circuit panel denied the government's emergency request to stay the lower court's decision pending appeal.[3]

In April 2012, during oral argument in a Fifth Circuit case involving the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA), Smith ordered the Department of Justice to provide his panel of three judges with a three-page, single-spaced report explaining President Obama's views on judicial review. Smith's order was prompted by Obama's recent press conference remarks on a case pending before the Supreme Court in which the Court was considering, among other things, whether to strike down the entire ACA as unconstitutional. Obama had said that if the Supreme Court overturned the ACA, it would be "an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress," and that a law that was passed by Congress on an economic issue had not been overturned by the court "going back to the ’30s, pre New Deal," remarks that were criticized by many as historically and legally inaccurate.[4][5][6][7] Though Smith's response and order were criticized by some legal scholars and members of the press,[8] Bush administration U.S. Attorney General and former judge Michael Mukasey defended Smith, stating that Obama's remarks had called judicial review "into question," so that "the court has, it seems to me, every obligation to sit up and take notice."[9] U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department would respond "appropriately" to the judge's request[10] and filed a short response, conceding that the federal courts have the power to strike down laws passed by Congress but citing Supreme Court precedent for the proposition that those laws are presumed constitutional and should only be overturned "sparingly".[6]

In July 2012, Smith authored the bipartisan majority opinion for the en banc Fifth Circuit in United States v. Kebodeaux, 687 F.3d 232 (5th Cir. 2012), holding that, once a former federal convict has fully served his sentence and been unconditionally released from prison, the federal government cannot regulate his purely intrastate conduct merely because he was once convicted of a federal crime. Smith's majority opinion further held that the mere possibility that a person may move interstate in the future is an insufficient basis for the federal government to regulate that person under the Interstate Commerce Clause.[11] The decision was reversed 7-2 by the Supreme Court on the ground that Kebodeaux himself was not unconditionally released from federal custody, because a law in effect at the time of his offense required him to register as a sex offender after his release from prison. However, a concurring opinion by Chief Justice Roberts agreed with Judge Smith's en banc opinion on the core issue that "[t]he fact of a prior federal conviction, by itself, does not give Congress a freestanding, independent, and perpetual interest in protecting the public from the convict’s purely intrastate conduct."[12]


Judge Smith's former clerks include:


  1. Who's who in the South and Southwest. Marquis Who's Who. 2005. ISBN 9780837908359. Retrieved 2015-04-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Biographical Directory of Federal Judges: Smith, Jerry Edwin. Federal Judicial Center.
  3. Pelofsky, Jeremy.; Doggett, Tom. Court refuses stay in deepwater drilling case. Reuters Canada. July 8, 2010.
  4. Brooks Jackson,, Fact check: Obama's Supreme Court remarks USAToday, April 5, 2012
  5. Goodwin, Liz. Jerry Smith’s Obama rebuke questioned by legal experts Yahoo News' The Lookout. April 4, 2012.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Jerry Markon. In letter to judge, Holder defends Obama’s comments urging Supreme Court to uphold health-care law, The Washington Post, April 5, 2012.
  7. Remarks by the President at the Associated Press Luncheon April 3, 2012.
  8. Kerr, Orin. [1], "The Volokh Conspiracy." April 3, 2012.
  9. Sam Baker. Bush attorney general defends judge’s probe of Obama healthcare comments, The Hill, 04/04/12.
  11. United States v. Kebodeaux from
  12. "". Retrieved 2015-04-13. External link in |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Legal offices
New seat Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit