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Jessica Smith

W. R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government; Director, Criminal Justice Innovation Lab

Jessica Smith is Director of the School’s Criminal Justice Innovation Lab. The Lab brings together a broad range of stakeholders to learn about criminal justice problems, implement innovative consensus solutions, and measure the impact of their efforts. It seeks to promote a fair and effective criminal justice system, public safety, and economic prosperity through an evidence-based approach to criminal justice policy. Smith has offered numerous courses for trial and appellate judges and has taught sessions for prosecutors, defenders, law enforcement officers, magistrates, and others. Her many books, chapters, articles, and other publications deal with criminal procedure, substantive criminal law, and evidence. 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. 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. Smith earned a B.A., cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania and a J.D., magna cum laude, Order of the Coif, from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was managing editor of the Law Review.

Select Publications & Resources

Bail Reform in North Carolina Judicial District 21: Evaluation Report, 2022.

Smith, Jessica. 2022. North Carolina State Bar Journal: Supporting Criminal Justice Reform. Fall 2022. Chapel Hill, NC. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government.

The Measuring Justice Dashboard, 2021. 

The North Carolina Court Appearance Project Report, 2022.




Fields of Expertise
Bail and Pretrial Release
Criminal Justice Reform
Criminal Law and Procedure
Judicial Education
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