Paul Smith
Paul Smith ’76 receives an honorary degree from President Biddy Martin on May 24, 2015

Doctor of Humane Letters

Paul Smith is a litigation attorney and partner at Jenner & Block, a national law firm, where he chairs the Appellate and Supreme Court Practice. He has handled many cases involving civil rights and civil liberties, notably in the areas of free speech, voting rights and gay rights. He has argued 16 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including the landmark gay-rights case Lawrence v. Texas; several cases involving redistricting and voter ID laws; and Brown v. EMA, which established the First Amendment rights of video game producers and rejected the idea that violent expression is constitutionally unprotected. Smith also argued United States v. American Library Association (2003), a case involving a First Amendment challenge to the Children’s Internet Protection Act, and Mathias v. WorldCom (2001), which dealt with the Eleventh Amendment immunity of state commissions.

Smith graduated from Amherst summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa before earning his law degree at Yale. He began his career as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell before practicing at firms throughout Washington, D.C. He is also a member of the bar in Maryland and New York and has received numerous accolades from his colleagues. Smith is AV Peer Review Rated, meaning that he’s earned Martindale-Hubbell’s highest peer recognition for ethical standards and legal ability. Chambers USA has frequently named him among the country’s leading lawyers in appellate litigation, media and entertainment law, and First Amendment litigation. In 2010, he won the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association for his work promoting civil rights and civil liberties. The National Law Journal named him one of “The Decade’s Most Influential Lawyers” that same year.

Smith is a member and former chair of the national board of directors of the American Constitution Society and former board member and co-chair of Lambda Legal, a national organization that advocates for the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.


audio Hear talks given by the honorary degree recipients over Commencement Weekend.