Georgetown’s Abbe Smith: Do not lose sight of poor defendants

Sept. 20, 2013

PORTLAND, Maine – More than 100 University of Maine School of Law students, faculty and guests filled the school’s Moot Courtroom on Sept. 17, as Professor Abbe Smith of Georgetown Law School delivered the annual Constitution Day lecture.

Smith, a lawyer and scholar who has spent nearly 30 years defending poor people in criminal cases, titled her talk “How Can You Not Defend Those People?” She opened by showing a video clip about the landmark case, Florida v. Gideon. Smith noted that this year is the 50th anniversary of Gideon, which led to the guarantee of counsel for indigent defendants in criminal cases, and she went on to discuss the importance of vigorous defense for poor people.

Smith is Professor of Law, Director of the Criminal Defense & Prisoner Advocacy Clinic, and Co-Director of the E. Barrett Prettyman Fellowship Program at Georgetown Law School, where she has taught since 1996. Prior to coming to Georgetown, Professor Smith was Deputy Director of the Criminal Justice Institute, Clinical Instructor, and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School. Professor Smith has also taught at City University New York Law School, Temple University School of Law, American University Washington College of Law, and the University of Melbourne (Australia) Law School, where she was a Senior Fulbright Scholar. She is a graduate of Yale University and earned her law degree at New York University.

Professor Smith teaches and writes in the areas of criminal defense, legal ethics, juvenile justice, and clinical legal education. In addition to numerous law journal articles, she has written and edited several books, including How Can You Represent Those People (Palgrave MacMillan, 2013). Professor Smith began her legal career at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, where she was a trial lawyer, senior trial lawyer, and member of the Special Defense Unit from 1982 to 1990. She continues to be actively engaged in criminal defense practice and frequently presents at public defender and legal aid training programs in the U.S. and abroad.


Media contact: Trevor Maxwell, communications director at Maine Law
Office: 207-228-8037/ Cell: 207-286-4431/ email:

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