Rodney A. Smolla

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Rodney A. Smolla
Alma materJD, Duke University School of Law
BA, Yale University
Notable work
Free Speech in an Open Society, Deliberate Intent: A Lawyer Tells the True Story of Murder by the Book

Rodney A. Smolla, is an American author, First Amendment scholar and lawyer.[1][2] He is currently the president of the Vermont Law School, and former dean of the Widener University Delaware Law School until spring 2022. He was the 11th president of Furman University.[3] In 2015, it was announced that on 1 July of that year, Smolla would become the dean of the newly separate Delaware Law School of Widener University.[4]

Smolla went to Yale University as an undergraduate and also to Duke University Law School, where he finished first in his class.[5] After his graduation, Smolla served as a clerk for Charles Clark, a judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in 1978–1979.[5]

Smolla began his academic career at the DePaul University College of Law in 1980. After teaching at the University of Illinois College of Law, the University of Arkansas School of Law, and the University of Denver College of Law, he served as a professor at William & Mary Law School, where he was also director of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law. In 2003, he was named Dean of the University of Richmond School of Law. Smolla became Dean of Washington and Lee University School of Law on 1 July 2007, where he established their innovative third-year law program. He was a visiting professor at Duke University Law School and the University of Melbourne Law School. In 2002, Smolla argued Virginia v. Black before the Supreme Court of the United States. The case revolved around the constitutionality of Virginia's cross burning statute.[6][7] In 2017, in the aftermath of the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Smolla was appointed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to serve as a special advisor on First Amendment issues to the Governor’s Task Force on Public Safety, Preparedness and Response to Civil Unrest.[8]

Smolla serves on the board of directors of the Media General Corporation.[9] He has served on numerous other civic, community, and professional boards.

Smolla was the director of the Annenberg Washington Program Libel Reform Project, and author of the Annenberg Libel Reform Report that emerged from the blue ribbon task force on that project. He has also testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the topic of the reporter's privilege.[10]

He is the author of several books on the law and First Amendment issues, including Jerry Falwell v. Larry Flynt: The First Amendment on Trial, and Deliberate Intent: A Lawyer Tells the True Story of Murder by the Book. Deliberate Intent described his involvement as attorney for the plaintiffs[11] in the notorious Hit Man book case. Smolla successfully represented the families of three murder victims in a suit against the publisher of a murder instruction manual used by a hit man for guidance to carry out the murders.[12] The book was made into a television movie by Fox and the FX Cable Network, and actor Timothy Hutton portrayed Smolla.[5] His book Free Speech in an Open Society won the William O. Douglas Prize.[13] He edited A Year in the Life of the Supreme Court, which won the ABA Silver Gavel Award.[14]

Smolla has also written extensively for the legal academic world, including the legal treatise Smolla and Nimmer on Freedom of Speech (Thomson Reuters West, 3 volumes, 1996); Federal Civil Rights Acts (West Group, 2 volumes, 1994); and Law of Defamation (Thomson Reuters West 2nd Edition 2000, 2 volumes);[15] and Law of Lawyer Advertising (2 volumes, Thomson Reuters West 2006).[5] He is also the author of a case book on First Amendment law, The First Amendment: Freedom of Expression, Regulation of Mass Media, Freedom of Religion (Carolina Academic Press 1999), and the co-author of a constitutional law case book, Constitutional Law: Structure and Rights in Our Federal System with Professor William Banks, 6th Edition, Lexis Nexis 2010.[5]



  1. ^ The Scorned Law Professor
  2. ^ Mad Max
  3. ^ Legal Scholar Rodney A. Smolla was Furman's 11th President
  4. ^ "Our new leader". Widener University Delaware Law. 27 March 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e About the President of Furman University
  6. ^ Virginia v. Black
  7. ^ Virginia burning
  8. ^ "Governor's Task Force on Public Safety Preparedness and Response to Civil Unrest" (PDF). 1 December 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ Media General Board of Directors
  10. ^ Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee
  11. ^ Kraft, Emilie S. "Hit Man Manual". Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  12. ^ Savage, David (22 May 1999). "Publisher of 'Hit Man' Manual Agrees to Settle Suit Over Triple Slaying". Los Angeles Times.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ Adjusting the Volume
  14. ^ "Meet Our Faculty". Washington and Lee University. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  15. ^ Rodney Smolla, Law of Defamation, ; Rodney Smolla, Smolla and Nimmer on Freedom of Speech; Rodney Smolla, Federal Civil Rights Acts, 3d,
  16. ^ "Our New Leader · Delaware Law: Widener University".

External links[edit]