Stanford Law School Appoints Judge Stephen Smith as Director of Fourth Amendment & Open Courts at the Center for Internet and Society

Stanford Law School today announced the appointment of retired Federal Judge Stephen Wm. Smith as Director, Fourth Amendment & Open Courts at the Center for Internet and Society (CIS). Smith will focus on the constitutionality of digital search and surveillance, as well as public access to court records authorizing those investigative techniques.

“For many years Judge Smith has been in the forefront of judges confronting the difficult challenges of applying the Fourth Amendment to 21st century policing techniques,” said CIS Faculty Director and Professor of Law Barbara van Schewick. “Stephen’s judicial experience will add a valuable new perspective to the work of CIS as it strives to bring democratic accountability to law and technology.”

Smith is the author of several opinions of first impression on electronic surveillance, including a 2005 opinion requiring a warrant for cell phone tracking – a position that the U.S. Supreme Court adopted this past term in Carpenter v. U.S. He wrote the first court opinion considering law enforcement authority to remotely hack into a computer suspected of being used for criminal activity –  a decision that prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to seek an amendment to the federal rules of criminal procedure, which the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately adopted. Through such decisions, Smith has become a recognized voice, testifying before the U.S. Congress on reforming electronic communications privacy laws and advising the American Law Institute’s Project on Policing Law.

Also a forceful advocate for greater transparency in the criminal justice system, Smith has published several articles criticizing the regime of secrecy surrounding electronic surveillance orders. He has pressed for definite time limits on judicial sealing and gag orders, as well as more open docketing practices.

In his new capacity as a CIS director, Smith sees an opportunity to focus full time on these twin policy concerns. “The Fourth Amendment makes law enforcement accountable to the judiciary, and transparency makes both the judiciary and law enforcement accountable to the people,” said Smith.  “Public accountability pushes decision makers to improve law and technology in ways that further democratic values. This of course is a fundamental mission of CIS, and I am eager to join in that effort.”

From 2004 until his retirement in July, Smith served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Houston, Texas. Before taking the bench, he practiced law for 25 years with Fulbright & Jaworski, specializing in labor and employment law. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and received a B.A. in Philosophy from Vanderbilt University.  

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective, and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change. 

About the Stanford Center for Internet and Society

The Center for Internet and Society (CIS) is a public interest technology law and policy program at Stanford Law School and a part of Law, Science and Technology Program at Stanford Law School. CIS brings together scholars, academics, legislators, students, programmers, security researchers, and scientists to study the interaction of new technologies and the law and to examine how the synergy between the two can either promote or harm public goods like free speech, innovation, privacy, public commons, diversity, and scientific inquiry. CIS strives to improve both technology and law, encouraging decision makers to design both as a means to further democratic values. CIS provides law students and the general public with educational resources and analyses of policy issues arising at the intersection of law, technology and the public interest. CIS also sponsors a range of public events including a speaker series, conferences and workshops. CIS is led by Faculty Director Professor Barbara van Schewick.