He said his experience as a family law attorney is useful on the bench because he understands the substance of the law as well as procedural issues.
“I’m not trying to overstate my skills, but I think I have a pretty good idea of the law in that area,” he said. “As a result, I think it’s a lot easier for somebody like me, and I think that’s kind of what they were looking for when they decided to go outside of the pool of local attorneys and bring in somebody that has had family law experience.”
The judgeship was vacant for nearly two months before Smith accepted the position, which created a backlog of family law cases to be heard. Another judge handles some of those cases but they are only part of that judge’s workload.
Smith said he will focus on the family law docket until the old cases are resolved, but he will take on additional assignments as needed.
He said his experience as a family-law attorney, which reminded him that someone needs to stand up for children in the legal system, has shaped his perspective as a judge.
“If you’ve really worked in family law long enough, you know that to some extent, the adults have somebody to represent them,” he said. “They have attorneys, usually, and if they don’t have attorneys, at least they’re adults and they can to a large extent help themselves.
“But the children are often the ones who are just kind of lost in the system, unless there’s an environment in place to allow children to be protected and be in an environment where they can prosper.”
Smith said he learned a lot from Pontotoc County’s three judges and from other attorneys. His mentor was Bob Bennett, a colleague with 50 years’ experience who was once named the state’s outstanding attorney.
Smith said Bennett was an honest man, a true Southern gentleman and a diligent advocate for his clients.
“‘Just a really down-to-earth, great, decent guy,” Smith said.