Rodney A. Smolla

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Rodney A. Smolla
Alma mater JD, Duke University School of Law
BA, Yale University
Occupation Lawyer
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 award-winning author and First Amendment scholar.[1][2] He is currently the dean of Widener University Delaware Law School. He was the 11th president of Furman University.[3]

In 2015, it was announced that on 1 July of that year, Mr. Smolla would become the Dean of newly separate Delaware Law School of Widener University.[4]

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

Smolla began his academic career at DePaul University College of Law in 1980. After teaching at University of Illinois College of Law, University of Arkansas School of Law, and 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 July 1, 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]

Smolla serves on the board of directors of Media General corporation.[8] He has served on numerous other civic, community, and professional boards, including:
- The American Arbitration Association
- The Council for America’s First Freedom (Chair, Board of Trustees)
- The Faith Leaders Initiative of Richmond
- The Virginia Coalition for Open Government
- The John Marshal Park Foundation
- The Williamsburg Montessori School
- The First Amendment Congress
- The First Amendment Advisory Board to the Media Institute (Washington, DC)
- The Bill of Rights Institute Advisory Council (Washington, DC)
- The Advisory Committee to the Council for America’s First Freedom (Richmond, VA)
- The Blue Ribbon Committee to Review Information Policy in Virginia
- The Law-Related Education Project of Sweetbriar College
- The American Bar Association Advisory Committee to the Forum on Mass Communications Law
- The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia Legal Panel
- The Association of American University Professors Committee on Academic Freedom & Tenure
- The Association of American University Professors Litigation Steering Committee
- The Virginia Bar Association Special Issues Committee
- The Association of American Law Schools Section on Defamation and Privacy Law (Chair)
- The Association of American Law Schools Section on Mass Communications Law (Chair)
- The Association of American Law Schools Conference on Constitutional Law (Chair)
- The Association of American Law Schools Committee on Sections and Annual Meetings (Member)
- The Curriculum Committee of the American Bar Association Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar
- The American Bar Association's Uniform Commission on State Laws Drafting Committee on uniform libel reform legislation (Delegate).

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 reporter's privilege.[9]

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 in the notorious "Hit Man" 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. 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.[10] He edited A Year in the Life of the Supreme Court, which won the ABA Silver Gavel Award.[11]

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);[12] 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]


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