The American Bar Association said today it will honor Mary Smith of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Division for her work promoting diversity in the law.
Smith, who was President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the DOJ Tax Division, is the president-elect of the National Native American Bar Association. At Justice, she serves as counsel to Assistant Attorney General Tony West.
The ABA’s Commission for Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Legal Profession said today that Smith, an associate White House counsel in the Bill Clinton administration, will receive the 2012 Spirit of Excellence Award at an event in February in New Orleans. Smith was not immediately reached for comment this afternoon.
The commission chair, Reginald Turner, partner in Clark Hill’s Detroit office, said in a statement that during the Clinton administration Smith was “the architect for a historic Native American policy initiative” that addressed areas that included health care, economic development and education.
The ABA said Smith worked on an executive order during the Clinton years that requires the federal agencies to engage trial officials in the development of policy that has implications for Native Americans.
A member of the Cherokee Nation, in Michigan, Smith in 2009 became the first Native American woman elected to the ABA’s board of governors. She is formerly a partner in the Chicago office of Schoeman Updike Kaufman & Scharf.
Smith’s nomination to run the Tax Division failed amid concern about her lack of experience in the tax industry. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) remarked that there are probably “thousands of highly experienced tax lawyers who would love to have a job like this.”
Smith withdrew her nomination last year. Obama in Septembernominated Fulbright & Jaworski partner Kathryn Keneally as assistant attorney general for the Tax Division. Keneally specializes in tax matters.