John Smietanka (born June 28, 1941, in Chicago) was the prosecutor for Berrien County, Michigan, from 1974 to 1981, and a United States Attorney in Western Michigan, appointed by Ronald Reagan, from 1981 until 1994.
Career as a U.S. attorney
Notable cases that Smietanka handled in the U.S. Attorney's office include the disappearance of West German freight ship captain Fredrich Helling in Lake Michigan, an investigation into sales of diluted orange juice, and a major Chicago gang prosecution which fell apart amid accusations of inappropriate favors given to prosecution witnesses. Smiteanka also worked with Michigan Attorney General Frank J. Kelley to prosecute state representative Stephen Shepich and other people connected with fraud in the Michigan House Fiscal Agency.
The United States Attorney General's office gave him an award for outstanding service in 1989 and for distinguished service in 1993, and the John Marshall Law School (Chicago) honored him as a distinguished alumnus in 1986.
Failed nomination to the Sixth Circuit
On January 24, 1992, President George H. W. Bush nominated Smietanka to be a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. However, with the Democrats controlling the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Smietanka's nomination languished, and it lapsed with the end of Bush's presidency. President Bill Clinton did not renominate Smietanka to the Sixth Circuit.
Run for Attorney General
Smietanka is now in private practice as a partner in Smietanka, Buckleitner, Steffes and Gezon, a Michigan law firm. In 2005, he helped free Larry Souter, wrongfully convicted as a murderer, a case for which he was honored as Lawyer of the Year by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He is one of the attorneys for Ibrahim Parlak, a Kurd whom the United States attempted to deport. In 2007, Smietanka was one of two lawyers chosen by John McCain to co-chair Lawyers for McCain in Michigan, a coalition of Michigan attorneys, as part of his presidential campaign. Since 2001 Smietanka has been an instructor for an annual program held by the John Marshall Law School in Luhačovice, in the Czech Republic, to educate young Czech and Slovak lawyers about the American legal system.
- "Ship Captain's Disappearance in Lake Probed", San Jose Mercury News, October 26, 1987.
- Perlman, Lisa (February 19, 1993), "Manufacturers Charged With Selling Diluted Juice", Associated Press.
- Cohen, Sharon (August 15, 1993), "Sex, Lies, Drugs, Shame: Major Gang Prosecution Unravels in Chicago Justice: Disclosures have turned a successful effort into a major embarrassment for the federal government. A six-year probe that led to 53 convictions is in jeopardy", Los Angeles Times.
- Eric Freedman, "Corruption Lingers 20 years after Legislative scandal erupted", in Macomb Daily Jan. 21, 2013
- "What if Bush had rallied for Posthumus?", Detroit News, November 17, 2002; "Filibuster extremes require bipartisan solution", Detroit News, May 24, 2005.
- "Court reverses murder conviction: Man was found guilty in woman's death in 1979; says his rights to counsel, due process were violated", Detroit News, January 20, 2005[dead link].
- "2005 Lawyers of the Year", Michigan Lawyers Weekly, 2005.
- Lydersen, Kari (October 24, 2007), "Deportation Target Has High-Profile Defenders", Washington Post.
- Michigan Attorneys Join Supporters Of McCain: Top Attorneys From East And West Michigan Co-Chair McCain Coalition. Press release from McCain campaign web site.
- Training for New Czech/Slovak Lawyers, The John Marshall Law School.
- Profile of Smietanka on his law firm's web site