It is with deep sadness we share with you all news of the passing of retired Judge Thomas B. Smith this past Thursday.
Judge Smith was born in Muskegon, Michigan. Later in life, he moved to the Sunshine State and attended the University of South Florida where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in history. After completing his undergraduate education in 1974, he went on to attend the University of Florida College of Law where he graduated with his juris doctor in 1977.
Following his graduation from law school, Judge Smith became a sole practitioner. In 1979, he decided to take a different path and joined the Office of the State Attorney in the Ninth Judicial Circuit. He remained with the Office of the State Attorney for three years before making the jump back to private practice in 1982. For 16 years, he worked as an associate and shareholder for Maguire, Voorhis & Wells, P.A., before joining Holland & Knight, LLP in 1998 as a partner.
In December 2001, his career path would change yet again when then-Governor Jeb Bush appointed Judge Smith to the Ninth Judicial Circuit bench. He started his service on the bench in early 2002, initially appointed to a criminal division but aspired to start something new in civil. Drawing on his experience practicing commercial litigation, Judge Smith felt it vital that the circuit have a designated business court division. He proposed the idea to former Chief Judge Belvin Perry, Jr. and, by 2003, the Ninth Circuit’s business court division began handling cases. In 2009, after six years on the bench in both criminal and domestic divisions, Judge Smith finally had the opportunity to serve in the business court division he helped develop.
In 2011 that Judge Smith left our circuit for another great opportunity. He was selected unanimously by the Judges of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida to serve as a as a United States Magistrate Judge. He officially retired from the bench in July of 2019.
Judge Smith leaves a lasting legacy here in the Ninth Circuit. The business court division he developed and created remains an important aspect of our courts and inspired other circuits in the development of their own business courts. Both this, and his dedication to the law over his many years of service, keep his memory alive within our halls. Please keep his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers at this time.