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Rodney Smolla

Rodney Smolla

Rodney Smolla is Dean and Professor of Law at the Delaware Law School of Widener University, in Wilmington, Delaware. As an educator he has been a strong advocate for experiential learning, the development of professional competencies, and civic engagement. He was previously the 11th President of Furman University, in Greenville, South Carolina, the Dean of the Law School at Washington and Lee University Law School, the Dean of the University of Richmond Law School, the Director of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law at the College of William and Mary, and Senior Fellow and Project Director of the Washington Annenberg Program of Northwestern University. He has also been a faculty member at the DePaul, University of Illinois, and University of Arkansas law schools, and a visiting professor at the Duke, University of Georgia, University of Indiana, Denver University, and University of Melbourne law schools. Smolla is a nationally-known scholar on matters relating to constitutional law, civil rights, freedom of speech, and mass media, particularly matters relating to libel and privacy. He is the author five multi-volume legal treatises, all published by Thomson Reuters, which are updated twice annually: Law of Defamation; Smolla and Nimmer on Freedom of Speech; Rights and Liabilities in Media Content, Internet, Broadcast, and Print; Federal Civil Rights Acts; and, Law of Lawyer Advertising. He is also author of The First Amendment: Freedom of Expression, Regulation of Mass Media, Freedom of Religion (Carolina Academic Press 1999) (a law school casebook); and co-author of Constitutional Law: Structure and Rights in Our Federal System (6th Edition, 2010, with William Banks). He is the editor each year of the First Amendment Law Handbook, published annually by Thomson Reuters. He was also editor of The Copyright Law Anthology published by Thomson Reuters. He is also the author of may trade and university press books, including Suing the Press: Libel, the Media, and Power (Oxford University Press 1986) (won ABA Silver Gavel Award Certificate of Merit); Jerry Falwell v. Larry Flynt: The First Amendment on Trial (St. Martin’s Press 1988); Free Speech in an Open Society (Alfred A. Knopf 1992) (winner of the William O. Douglas Award); Deliberate Intent: A Lawyer Tells the True Story of Murder by the Book (Crown Publishers 1999) (made into a television movie by FX, with Timothy Hutton playing the role of Rod Smolla); The Constitution Goes to College (New York University Press 2010). He was editor of A Year in the Life of the Supreme Court (Duke University Press 1995) (won ABA Civil Gavel Award). Smolla has published over 100 articles in law reviews and other publications. Smolla has served as Chairman of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Defamation and Privacy Law, as Chairman of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Mass Communications Law, as a member of the American Bar Association Advisory Committee to the Forum on Mass Communications Law, and as a member of the First Amendment Advisory Board to the Media Institute I was the Director of the Annenberg Washington Program Libel Reform Project, and author of the Annenberg Libel Reform Report that emerged from the blue ribbon task force on that project. He served as a Director of the Media General Corporation, as a Director of the American Arbitration Association. In 2011, he was appointed by Governor Nikki Haley to serve as a Commissioner on the South Carolina Commission of Higher Education, which included within its mission the oversight of all of South Carolina’s public universities and colleges, and licensure and programmatic approval for all public and private educational programs within the state. Smolla has been and remains an active litigator. In his law practice activity, he is particularly well-known for his representation of American and international clients on matters relating to defamation and invasion of privacy. He is admitted to the Illinois, Virginia, and Delaware bars, and he has participated as counsel or co-counsel in many litigation matters, in state and federal courts throughout the nation. He is a frequent advocate on a wide variety of legal issues, and has presented oral argument in state and federal courts across the country, including the Supreme Court of the United States.

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Guest Appearances
March 12, 2020

Dean Rodney Smolla: How Experiential Learning Makes Better Future Lawyers

Rodney Smolla, dean of the Delaware Law School of Widener University, discusses his career and offers practical advice for law students.

August 14, 2019

How experiential learning became the norm

The past 10 years have brought a sea change to legal education, says Legal Rebel Rodney Smolla.