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Penn State names Smith Distinguished Alumnus


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Hon. D. Brooks Smith, alumnus, adjunct professor of law, and chair of the board of advisers at Penn State Law, has been selected as a 2017 recipient of the Penn State Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor presented by the University to its alumni.

Smith is a 1976 graduate of the Penn State Dickinson School of Law, the predecessor to Penn State Law. He was elevated to his current position as the chief judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in October of this year. He has been a judge on the Third Circuit Court, which covers Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, since 2002, following his appointment by President George W. Bush. Prior to that position, he served for 14 years—including almost two years as chief judge—on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, a position to which he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan.

During his service on the Third Circuit, Smith was appointed by the chief justice of the United States to two U.S. Judicial Conference Committees: the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules, and the Space and Facilities Committee, on which he acted as chair, and spearheaded a national initiative to reduce space used by the federal court system by 3 percent over five years. He also participates in organized bar activities and is a member of the Third Circuit Lawyer Advisory Committee, a group that acts as a liaison and facilitates open communication between the bench, the bar, and the public.

In addition to his judicial duties, Smith is an adjunct professor at Penn State Law, a role he has held for eight years, where he teaches the Class Actions Seminar. He is also chair of the Penn State Law board of advisers, an advisory, non-fiduciary body whose main purpose is to support and enhance Penn State Law’s vision of being one of the nation’s leading law schools through providing feedback, advice, and assistance in key areas. The Penn State Alumni Association named Smith an Alumni Fellow in 2011.

Prior to joining the judiciary, Smith served as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County from 1984 to 1988 and as Blair County’s district attorney from 1983 to 1984. He also served as a special assistant attorney general for Pennsylvania and assistant district attorney in Blair County. He was in private practice from 1976 to 1984 in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

This year, eight Penn State alumni were selected by the Board of Trustees to receive the Distinguished Alumni award. Recipients hold either a bachelor’s or an advanced degree from the University, and have a record of outstanding achievement in their personal and professional lives, as well as in community service that exemplifies the objectives of their alma mater. The 2017 awards will be presented at the Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony held during the Alumni Reunion Weekend in early June. Smith and his wife, Karen, have been married for forty years and reside in Altoona.

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