Rodney Smith testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Florida, on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rodney Smith, one of four Floridians nominated by President Donald Trump to be considered for federal court appointments, appeared before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

If successful, Smith will join the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida — or “the opportunity of a lifetime,” as he put it, during the Oct. 17 hearing.

“I hope that I have inspired our children to stay humble and never doubt your faith, never abandon your dreams and never doubt your integrity,” Smith said in his opening statement.

Smith, who’s previously labeled himself ”The skinny kid from Liberty City,” brought along his 7-year-old son. “Vote for my daddy,” he told Sen. John Neely Kennedy, who chaired the hearing.

‘Skinny Kid From Liberty City,’ Judge Rodney Smith Fulfills His Dreams

Smith entered the legal arena 18 years ago as an insurance defense lawyer and later served as assistant city attorney in Miami Beach. He became a county court judge in 2008 and rose to the Miami-Dade Circuit bench in 2012.

Smith also co-chairs the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges’ diversity committee and holds degrees from Florida A&M University and Michigan State University College of Law.

Joining the Miami jurist were three other Floridian nominees. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Thomas P. Barber and Fifth DCA Judge Wendy Williams Berger were up for spots on the Middle District of Florida, while Fifth DCA Judge T. Kent Wetherell III was examined for the Northern District of Florida.

Corey Landon Maze, Alabama’s special deputy attorney general, was nominated for the Northern District of Alabama, while Washington civil and criminal lawyer Allison Jones Rushing was considered for the Fourth Circuit bench and fielded several questions about whether she had enough ”life experience” to serve. If confirmed, Rushing, born in 1982, will be one of the youngest federal judges in the country.

The committee grilled the group on a number of legal issues, including religious liberty, the First Amendment and ambiguous statutes.

Kennedy also asked nominees to clarify the law around discriminating “in the right way,” using ethnicity as a factor in university admissions process, hinting at a case brought against Harvard which went to trial Oct. 15 and accuses the university of discriminating against Asian-American applicants.


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