Jessica Smith came to the School of Government in 2000, after practicing law at Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., and clerking for Judge W. Earl Britt on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina and for Judge J. Dickson Phillips Jr. on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. At the School of Government, Smith works with judges and others involved in the criminal justice system. Her numerous books, chapters, articles, and other publications deal with criminal procedure, substantive criminal law, and evidence. In 2015, Chief Justice Mark Martin appointed Smith as a Reporter for the N.C. Commission on the Administration of Law & Justice. Smith played a central role in developing the Commission’s recommendation to raise North Carolina’s juvenile age, which was enacted into law by the state legislature. Smith offers numerous courses for judges and is actively involved in criminal justice reform projects, including pretrial justice and addressing over-criminalization. In 2006, she received the Albert and Gladys Hall Coates Term Professorship for Teaching Excellence; in 2013, she was named by the Chancellor as a W. R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor, one of the University’s highest academic honors.
Areas of Expertise (6)
Criminal Justice Reform
Bail and Pretrial Release
Criminal Law and Procedure
NC Chief justice's "Friend of the Court" Award
Faculty member Jessica Smith received the Amicus Curiae Award from North Carolina Chief Justice Mark Martin. The award, bestowing her with the title of “Friend of the Court,” recognizes Smith for her outstanding service to the Judicial Branch of North Carolina.
University of Pennsylvania: BA, Economics and Communications
University of Pennsylvania Law School: J.D.
Magna Cum Laude, Order of the Coif
Served as managing editor of the Law Review
Media Appearances (7)
Pretrial release program comes to Western NC
Smoky Mountain News
Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, Haywood and Jackson counties will be the first judicial district in the state to pilot a pretrial release program aimed at reducing the local jail populations, recidivism rates and increasing the efficiency of the court system.
The program will include a new policy encouraging judges to set more unsecured bonds for people charged with nonviolent, low-level offenses so they can be released from jail while they await their court date.
Legislative Victory Gets N.C. Closer to an Effective, Efficient, and Fair Criminal
John Locke Foundation
Two weeks ago, both houses of the N.C. General Assembly voted unanimously to approve House Bill 379: An Act to Assist the Criminal Law Recodification Working Group. This week, Governor Cooper signed it into law. This enactment constitutes an essential first step towards something North Carolina badly needs: a clear, well-organized, unified criminal code. Everyone who helped to make it happen deserves our thanks, including and especially the bill’s legislative champions, Representative Dennis Riddell (R, 64) and Senator Andy Wells (R, 42).
N.C. criminal code a mess and needs a makeover, Smith says
RALEIGH — North Carolina’s criminal statutes are bloated but not beyond repair, a top legal expert says.
Hundreds of crimes are strewn across more than 140 chapters of the N.C. General Statutes. Chapter 14, which deals specifically with criminal law, holds more than 840 sections.
Worse yet, crimes extend beyond state code. Administrative and licensing bodies enact some regulations that are, by extension, enforced as criminal laws. The state also delegates ordinance authority to counties, cities, towns, and even metropolitan sewer districts.
The code is missing pieces, said Jessica Smith, professor of public law and government at the UNC School of Government, during a presentation Monday, April 9, at the John Locke Foundation. (See a video of the presentation here.) Some common law crimes, such as robbery, arson, burglary, and manslaughter, have yet to be codified in the general statutes.
Jessica Smith: Rethinking juvenile justice
Wilmington Star News
Throughout this month, the N.C. Commission on the Administration of Law & Justice is holding public hearings across the state on reform proposals. One of those hearings is Thursday night in Wilmington. Jessica Smith, W. R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Public Law & Government at the UNC School of Government, serves as reporter for the group’s committee on crime.
The content of this article is drawn from the committee’s draft report. Smith is not advocating for the proposal; this summary is intended to facilitate public comment only. To read the draft report and provide comments, visit www.NCCALJ.org.
Raising the Juvenile Age Good for All
The N.C. Commission on the Administration of Law & Justice will hold public hearings this month on its reform proposals. One calls for North Carolina to join the majority of states in the nation and raise the juvenile age to 18. North Carolina currently treats 16- and 17-year-olds like adults for purposes of criminal justice.
Consider Tommy, who gets into a school fight a day after his 16th birthday. He’s arrested. Because he can’t pay his secured bond, he’s detained in the local jail. His case proceeds to adult criminal court without any required parental involvement. Tommy is convicted and serves his sentence in adult prison. His criminal record is publicly available, making him ineligible for employment, public education and college financial aid, among other things.
Is a 16-Year Old Really an Adult?
Greensboro News & Record
In August, the N.C. Commission on the Administration of Law & Justice will hold public hearings on its reform proposals. One proposal calls for North Carolina to join the majority of states in the nation and raise the juvenile age to 18.
North Carolina currently treats 16- and 17-year-olds like adults for purposes of criminal justice. Consider Tommy, who gets into a school fight a day after his 16th birthday. Tommy is arrested. Because he can’t pay his secured bond, he’s detained in the local jail, with adult defendants. Tommy’s case proceeds to adult criminal court without any required parental involvement. Tommy is convicted and serves his sentence in adult prison. His criminal record is publicly available, making him ineligible for employment, public education and college financial aid, among other things.
NC Courts to see system update
Daily Tar Heel
North Carolina court technology is falling behind as its paper trail is growing — but a new state commission hopes to update its systems and, in turn, its provision of justice.
Led by N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin, the new North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice plans to review court systems in all 100 counties to improve court processes.
And according to Jim Woodall, district attorney for Chatham and Orange counties, reform to the state’s court system is long overdue, especially technological reform.
Advanced Criminal Evidence
This three and one-half day course is designed for North Carolina superior court judges. The focus will be on North Carolina law, except where federal law governs, such as with sixth amendment confrontation rights. Topics covered will include, among other things: character and habit, hearsay, confrontation, experts, child witnesses, authentication, and case management. A strong emphasis will be on helping judges develop skills to decide evidence issues quickly and accurately and to manage cases well. Thus, a significant portion of class time will be spent on case-based problems.
Advanced Criminal Procedure for Magistrates
A two-day Judicial College course for experienced magistrates on criminal procedure. This course will help magistrates improve their performance with basic criminal procedure tasks such as determining probable cause, selecting process, conducting initial appearances, and setting bonds.
Advanced Criminal Procedure for Superior Court Judges
This course will cover many of the challenging legal issues that arise in the criminal trial including responding to discovery violations, capacity, double jeopardy, closing the courtroom, jury misconduct, DWI procedure, probation revocations, and more. It also will cover scientific issues such as neuroscience and forensic toxicology, and will include a tour of the SBI Crime Lab. Also, included are sessions on fairness and compassion fatigue.
Appellate Training: New & Emerging Legal Issues
This course focuses on new and emerging legal issues that are likely to come before the NC Court of Appeals. Coverage varies year to year but typically includes sessions on recent Supreme Court cases, criminal law, civil law, juvenile law, family law, and evidence.
Correcting Errors After Entry of Judgment in a Criminal Case
(Correcting Errors Sua Sponte)
Crawford and Confrontation Clause Illuminated
This on-demand webinar covers the U.S. Supreme Court's seminal decision in Crawford v. Washington and all key follow-up cases. Coverage includes the meaning of the term "testimonial" in the new Crawford Confrontation Clause test, exceptions to the Crawford rule, waiver of confrontation rights, unavailability, prior opportunity to cross examine, and the use of substitute analysts post-Melendez-Diaz. UNC School of Government faculty member Jessica Smith provides an analytical framework for real cases to be used as a practical tool for judges, prosecutors, and defenders.