M. Patricia Smith

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M. Patricia Smith
United States Deputy Secretary of Labor
In office
January 16, 2014 – April 2014
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Seth Harris
Succeeded by Christopher P. Lu
Solicitor of Labor
Assumed office
March 1, 2010
Preceded by Gregory F. Jacob
Personal details
Alma mater Trinity College BA (1974) in Washington, D.C.
New York University School of Law JD (1977)
Profession Attorney

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 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. As of January 16, 2014 she has been acting United States Deputy Secretary of Labor.[1] Her successor, as Deputy Secretary of Labor Christopher P. Lu was confirmed on April 1, 2014.

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[edit]

She graduated cum laude, from Trinity College in Washington, D.C. in 1974 and from New York University School of Law, with honors, in 1977.

Professional career[edit]

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.[2] 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[edit]

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.[3]

After waiting for more than nine months, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed for cloture on Smith's nomination. The Senate voted 60-32 on February 1, 2010 for cloture on Smith's nomination.[4]

Republicans had noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had filed for cloture vote before then Senator-elect Scott Brown was seated.[5] Brown's predecessor, appointed Democratic Sen. Paul G. Kirk, voted in favor of cloture and also in favor of the nomination.[6][7]

The Senate confirmed Smith in a 60-37 vote on February 4, 2010.


  1. ^ "Acting Deputy Secretary of Labor and Solicitor of Labor". Office of the Secretary. U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2009/10/labor_nominee_still_faces_gop.html
  4. ^ http://spectator.org/blog/2010/01/28/reid-files-cloture-on-controve
  5. ^ http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/02/01/reid-schedules-vote-controversial-labor-nominee-brown-arrives/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%253A+foxnews%252Fpolitics+%2528Text+-+Politics%2529
  6. ^ http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=111&session=2&vote=00017
  7. ^ http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=111&session=2&vote=00018

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