Smith's Background, Etc.

This page provides detailed information regarding Smith's:

    • Judicial Experience;
    • Judicial Philosophy;
    • Background;
    • December Filing; and
    • Reform Proposal.


Judicial Experience:

Steve Smith served on the Texas Supreme Court from November 2002 through December 2004 and authored sixteen published opinions, including several important majority decisions.

For example, in Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services v. Mega Child Care, 145 S.W.3d 170 (Tex. 2004), the Court held that the Texas Administrative Procedure Act provides an independent right to judicial review of contested-case decisions. The Texas A.P.A. plainly states that persons aggrieved by a final decision in a contested case are "entitled to judicial review."

In Mega Child Care, the Court overturned 25 years of flawed Third Court of Appeals's precedent and held that the Legislature meant what it said. Smith's majority opinion was characterized as "landmark" in a law review article written by Baylor Law School Professor Beal, author of Texas Administrative Practice and Procedure.

While on the Court, Smith moved the cases assigned to him in a timely manner.

For example, in Little v. Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 148 S.W.3d 374 (Tex. 2004), the Court overturned two lower court decisions dismissing the plaintiff's employment discrimination suit. The trial court and the court of appeals had both held as a matter of law that the plaintiff, whose left leg had been amputated at the knee, was not "disabled" for purposes of the Texas version of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Smith's majority opinion was delivered only five weeks after the Court heard oral arguments.

Finally, Smith employed a reasonable and balanced approach to the tort law cases that often divide the Texas Supreme Court.

For example, in FFE Transportation Services v. Fulgham, 154 S.W.3d 84 (Tex. 2004), Smith's majority opinion held that strict products liability is inapplicable when a company gratuitously provides a product to an independent contractor working for the company for the sole purpose of accomplishing the company's business purposes.

It is noteworthy that the opinions Smith personally authored on the Texas Supreme Court have been cited almost a 1000 times, including citation by other state supreme courts.


Judicial Philosophy:

“Judicial lawmaking is the biggest problem in American courts today.”
—Steve Smith

Smith's opposition to judicial lawmaking is the reason that he is running for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Smith's conservative judicial philosophy mirrors that of United States Supreme Court Justice Scalia; textualism and rejection of the liberal "living constitution" theory.

When reviewing a constitutional or statutory provision, Smith will enforce the plain meaning of the text. If the text is ambiguous or vague, Smith will base his interpretation on the original understanding of the disputed text.

Smith's judicial philosophy should not be confused with strict constructionism. As Justice Scalia has stated: “text should not be construed strictly, and it should not be construed leniently; it should be construed reasonably, to contain all that it fairly means.”

The core task of the Texas judiciary is to efficiently and fairly resolve cases by applying Texas law to the facts of each case. Smith strongly believes that the Texas judiciary, in general, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, in particular, should not be creating new law.


Background:

• currently serves as Editor of www.TexasLegalGuide.com, which provides basic information and self-help guidance on various legal problems facing ordinary Texans.

• formerly served as General Counsel to the Texas Legal Foundation, which filed several important lawsuits, including one challenging the 2001 Texas law that provides in-state tuition and monetary grants to undocumented college students in Texas.

• filed, litigated, and won the landmark Hopwood case that eliminated racial preferences in admissions and scholarships at Texas universities between 1995 and 2003; filed the suit and litigated it for nine years because he believes that all Texans will be better off in the long run if their government ceases today to classify its citizens on the basis of race and ethnicity.

• in private practice, counsel of record at virtually every level of American judicial system, from the local justice of the peace court to the United States Supreme Court.

• legislative counsel for the Texas Legislature.

• staff attorney at Texas Secretary of State's Office.

• law clerk to United States District Judge Terry R. Means.

• graduated with Honors from the University of Texas School of Law.

• obtained BBA in Finance from the University of Texas at Arlington, becoming the first in his family to graduate from college.

• married to Susan Smith for more than twenty-five years; two daughters who recently graduated from college, Allison and Emily.

• raised in Tarrant County and attended schools in the ethnically diverse Everman ISD.

• fifth-generation Texan, whose family originally settled in East Texas in the 1870's.


December Filing:

Steve Smith filed for Place 5 on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on the filing deadline, December 14, 2015.

Smith entered the race to ensure that Republican primary voters had a proven conservative choice in the race for CCA Place 5.

Sid Harle has the most criminal law experience in the race for CCA Place 5 but his conservative credentials are questionable.

Smith is not a criminal law specialist but he knows more than the average Texas lawyer about our criminal justice system. He has reviewed the last two years of CCA rulings and has a good feel for the conservative Republicans, the moderate Republicans, and the sole Democrat on the court.

Smith is a recognized expert on the Texas Constitution of 1876, has significant legislative experience that the other candidates lack, and is the only candidate in the race with prior high court experience.


Reform Proposal:

Steve Smith advocates merging the Texas Supreme Court and the CCA. This would improve the state's jurisprudence (making it consistent between civil and criminal law), allow using the salary of the nine CCA judges to hire additional full-time professional criminal law staff, and give voters more control over the judiciary (because TSC races are more high profile than CCA races).

At a recent candidate forum in Houston, the moderator ask the candidates for CCA Place 5 whether the TSC and CCA should be merged. Steve Smith answered yes, Sid Harle said no, and Brent Webster was ambivalent. Scott Walker was not present.