M. Patricia Smith
|M. Patricia Smith|
|Solicitor of Labor|
March 1, 2010
|Preceded by||Gregory F. Jacob|
|Alma mater||Trinity College BA (1974) in Washington, D.C.
New York University School of Law JD (1977)
M. Patricia Smith (born circa 1952) is the Solicitor of the United States Department of Labor, the department's chief law interpreter-enforcer and third-ranking official. She was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the Solicitor of Labor on April 20, 2009. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 4, 2010, assumed her duties on March 1, 2010, and had her official swearing in ceremony on April 23, 2010. As Solicitor of Labor, Smith oversees over 450 attorneys across the country and more than 180 Federal labor laws and implementing regulations that cover about 125 million workers.
Smith previously was the New York State Commissioner of Labor. She was appointed in 2007 by Governor Eliot Spitzer and continued in the administration of Governor David Paterson. As New York State's Commissioner of Labor, Smith managed a staff of nearly 4,000 employees and a budget of $11 billion. She was also in charge of the New York State's Misclassification task force and Co-Chair of the Governors Economic Security Sub Cabinet.
Early life and education
Smith has spent her entire career in public service. She served for twenty years as an Assistant Attorney General in the Labor Bureau of the office of the New York State Attorney General initially as a section chief (1987–93), then as Deputy Bureau Chief (1993–99) and ultimately as the Bureau Chief (1999–2007). During her later years in charge of the Labor Bureau she developed a system of active government labor law enforcement that became a model for other Attorneys General and enforcement agencies. Prior to that Smith spent ten years at federally funded legal services programs in Connecticut and Indiana, starting as a Staff Attorney and ending as Assistant Litigation Director. In her legal services work, Smith represented unemployment claimants, minimum wage workers, workers in federal job training programs and job seekers.
While at the New York State Attorney General's office, Smith argued cases in the U.S. Supreme Court including a pivotal case in which the Supreme Court signaled that the courts had gone too far in overturning various state laws based on claims that they "relate to" employee benefit plans that are regulated by federal law. New York State Conference of Blue Cross & Blue Shield Plans v. Travelers Ins. Co., 514 U.S. 645 (1995). See Smith, M.: "ERISA Preemption and State Insurance Regulation of Healthcare Arrangements" BNA Books Retrieved on May 27, 2009
Nomination to the Labor Department
President Barack Obama nominated Smith to be solicitor, which is the third-highest-ranking person in the Labor Department, on April 20, 2009. Smith's nomination had been held up in the Senate because of Republican opposition stemming from statements she made to the Senate's HELP Committee in May 2009 about New York's Wage Watch program, which New York's Labor Commission had launched to find companies not paying proper wages. Smith told senators that state officials had developed the program, but documents later showed that a union and a public interest entity also had been involved. Smith also characterized the program as an educational one, but Republicans complained that documents revealed that it actually was an enforcement program.
Republicans had noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had filed for cloture vote before then Senator-elect Scott Brown was seated. Brown's predecessor, appointed Democratic Sen. Paul G. Kirk, voted in favor of cloture and also in favor of the nomination.
The Senate confirmed Smith in a 60-37 vote on February 4, 2010.
- In Travelers the Supreme Court explained that If "relate to" were taken to extend to the furthest stretch of its indeterminacy, then for all practical purposes pre-emption would never run its course, for "[r]eally, universally, relations stop nowhere," H. James, Roderick Hudson xli (New York ed., World's Classics 1980). But that, of course, would be to read Congress's words of limitation as mere sham, and to read the presumption against pre-emption out of the law whenever Congress speaks to the matter with generality. That said, we have to recognize that our prior attempt to construe the phrase 'relate to' does not give us much help drawing the line here. 514 U.S. at 655.
- Solicitor brochure (pdf)
- Office of the Solicitor of Labor
- USDOL Biography page for M. Patricia Smith
- Swearing in remarks by Secretary Solis
- Washington Post Head Count Tracking Obama's Appointments
- Smith, M.: Statement of M. Patricia Smith. Nominee for Solicitor of Department of Labor May 7, 2009 Retrieved on May 27, 2009
- State Labor Chief Picked for Federal Job (3/20/09 NY Times)
- Official bio from the New York Department of Labor website
- The Spitzer Team (1/1/07 NY Times)
- Spitzer Names New Chief of Labor Bureau Retrieved on May 27, 2009