School of Law Dean Search
Rodney A. Smolla Named Dean of the Washington and Lee School of Law
Incoming Dean, Rodney A. Smolla
President Kenneth P. Ruscio announced today the appointment of Rodney A. Smolla as Dean of the Washington and Lee University School of Law. Smolla is currently Dean and George E. Allen Professor of Law at the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond. Smolla will succeed Acting Dean Brian C. Murchison on July 1, 2007.
"Dean Smolla is a distinguished scholar, a leader in legal education, an attorney who has argued in front of the Supreme Court and a proven administrator known for his collegial and creative leadership," said Ruscio. "He is committed to the values of our University and our School of Law and we look forward to working with him in the years to come."
"The Law School at Washington and Lee is indeed one of the jewels of American legal education," said Smolla. "For many years I have admired the School's balanced sense of proportion and duty, as expressed in its emphasis on all three of the great and inspiring missions of legal education: teaching, scholarship, and public service. I am humbled and pleased to be joining the School as its next dean."
His appointment at the Washington and Lee School of Law was hailed by several legal scholars.
- Katharine Bartlett, dean of the Duke University School of Law, said "Dean Smolla is a fabulous choice. He has proved himself at Richmond and is widely respected among other law deans around the country. He also has a national reputation as a first-rate First Amendment scholar. Congratulations to Washington and Lee."
- The Hon. Donald W. Lemons, Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, said, "Washington and Lee University is very fortunate to have Rod Smolla as the new Dean of the School of Law. Rod combines a number of qualities rarely found in one individual. He is an extraordinary scholar and a capable administrator. Additionally, Rod has great vision with the leadership skills to move an entire institution to greater achievements. Rod has been admired and respected by faculty and students wherever he has taught. Also, he has remained an active member of the practicing Bar and is often asked to be counsel in particularly difficult and noteworthy cases involving the exercise of free speech under the First Amendment. The appointment of Rod Smolla as the new Dean of the School of Law is an event worthy of celebration at Washington and Lee University."
- Gerald L. Baliles, former governor of the state of Virginia, said, "Rod Smolla is an inspired choice to lead W&L’s Law School into the future. Without question, his scholarship is of the first rank, and his personal leadership qualities and legal credentials are without peer. The selection of Dean Smolla will bring renewed attention to W&L from across the nation, as well as throughout the legal profession, as he builds new initiatives upon the traditions and reputation of the School of Law at Washington and Lee. Practitioners and scholars alike will approve and salute the choice of Rod Smolla as W&L’s next Law School dean."
A.E. Dick Howard, White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, said, "I have known and admired Rod Smolla and his scholarship. Rod has a national reputation as scholar, teacher, advocate, and civic and professional leader. I can think of no one in the American academy who has made a greater imprint on our understanding of the First Amendment. Rod has a rare ability to inspire students, to command the respect of his colleagues, to help judges and legislators to shape the law, and to convey the law's meaning and aspirations to a larger public audience. Rod's commitments to the fundamental values of American law -- to make reality of such phrases as due process of law and freedom of expression -- set a standard for our time. Anyone who knows anything at all about the great traditions of Washington and Lee and its Law School will find how fortunate they are to have Rod Smolla helping shape that venerable institution's future.
A prolific writer, Smolla is regarded as one of top public law scholars in the country. His principal area of expertise is the First Amendment. His book Free Speech in an Open Society (Alfred A. Knopf 1992) won the William O. Douglas Award as the year’s best monograph on freedom of expression. He was the Editor of A Year in the Life of the Supreme Court (Duke University Press, 1995), which won an ABA Silver Gavel Award. His book Suing the Press: Libel, the Media, and Power (Oxford University Press 1986) won the ABA Silver Gavel Award Certificate of Merit.
Smolla has published scores of law review articles, including articles in the Duke Law Journal, the Stanford Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the University of Virginia Law Review, the Washington and Lee Law Review, and numerous other law reviews and journals.
Smolla’s writings also demonstrate a substantial commitment to teaching and to the bar. He is the author of three treatises: Smolla and Nimmer on Freedom of Speech (West Group, 2 volumes, 1996); Federal Civil Rights Acts (West Group, 2 volumes, 1994); and Law of Defamation (West Group 2nd Edition 2000, two volumes). He is also the author of a casebook on the First Amendment, titled: The First Amendment: Freedom of Expression, Regulation of Mass Media, Freedom of Religion (Carolina Academic Press 1999), and co-author of a casebook on constitutional law: Constitutional Law: Structure and Rights in Our Federal System (with Professors Banks and Braveman, 5th Edition, Lexis Publishing 2005).
Smolla is adept at explaining complex legal ideas for general audiences and has written two trade books detailing well-known cases: Jerry Falwell v. Larry Flynt: The First Amendment on Trial (St. Martin’s Press 1988), and Deliberate Intent (Crown Publishers 1999), which describes his involvement in the notorious Hit Man case, where he 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 instructions in carrying out the murders. The book was made into a television movie by Fox and the FX Cable Network.
Smolla is also in high demand as a media commentator, appearing frequently on television and radio programs, and often quoted in newspaper, magazine, and internet news stories. He has contributed on several occasions to the New York Times Book Review, and is a regular contributor to the on-line magazine Slate.com.
In addition to being a renowned scholar and teacher, Smolla has also been a nationally prominent advocate in cases involving constitutional law, civil rights, mass media, and defamation and privacy law. He has participated as counsel or co-counsel in litigation matters in state and federal courts throughout the nation; he has also presented oral argument in numerous state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States.
Smolla graduated from Yale University in 1975 and the Duke University School of Law in 1978, where he was first in his class. He then served as law clerk to Judge Charles Clark on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. After practicing law in Chicago at Mayer, Brown, and Platt, he taught at several law schools before joining the William and Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law, where he was Director of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law from 1988 to 1996. Smolla joined the University of Richmond in 1998 and was named Dean there in 2003.
Smolla is married to Michele B. Smolla. Their blended family includes five children.