Published on: Thursday, October 13, 2022

The first Black jurist to serve as the chief judge of the St. Louis-based federal appeals court, Circuit Judge Lavenski Smith, has been appointed by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to serve as the newest chair of the Judicial Conference's executive committee (article available here).

Smith, 63, in 2002 became the first Black person from Arkansas to ever serve on the Eighth Circuit, which hears appeals from Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. He became its chief judge in 2017.

The Judicial Conference is responsible for considering policy changes for the third branch and making recommendations to Congress for legislation that relates to the judiciary. Membership of the conference includes the chief judge of each circuit, the chief judge of the Court of International Trade, and a district judge from each regional circuit. By statute, Roberts serves as the presiding officer.

The Judicial Conference's recent areas of focus have included modernizing the electronic court records system known as PACER, bolstering judicial security and addressing concerns by employees about workplace misconduct.

Past chairs include Attorney General Merrick Garland, who lead the committee from 2017-2020 when he was a judge on the D.C. Circuit.