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50 for 50 Spotlight: Shadeequa Smith (LLM ’18)

"During my legal studies and training, the more exposure I got to ADR, the more I began to favor alternative justice pathways."

Shadeequa Smith (LLM '18) has dedicated her career to studying the criminal justice system and understanding its impact on individuals, families, and communities. Her efforts are informed by her work with organizations that improve the transition for formerly-incarcerated individuals into the community, local-level courts, the US Probation Office, and, most recently, as the director of training for the nonprofit Prison of Peace. 

"I believe that we all have an obligation to restore and heal the most vulnerable individuals in our communities," says Shadeequa.

Shadeequa currently serves as a fellow for the Fuse Corps, a national nonprofit agency that partners with local governments to help urban communities thrive. She is responsible for community engagement around bail reform in Los Angeles County Probation, Adult and Pretrial Services Bureau. Her responsibilities include engaging and collaborating with community stakeholders regarding the development and provision of services for pretrial clients and communicating program updates with internal and external stakeholders.

It was the Central Park Jogger case (now known as the Exonerated Five) that originally pushed Shadeequa into the legal field. She explains that the case fueled a passion in her to make sure that wrongs were made right and that everyone had equal access to justice. In the midst of her legal studies and training, Shadeequa was exposed to Alternative Dispute Resolution and began to explore alternative pathways to justice whether it be restorative justice or mediation. She says, "I had come to believe that an adversarial justice system is ineffective at fostering the healing necessary for everyone who is impacted by crime."

At Straus, her understanding of ADR allowed her to realize the multitude of avenues available in the justice field. It was through that Straus network, she adds, that she was able to land her first major opportunity to work in the ADR field.

While earning her LLM at the Institute, Shadeequa focused her research on bias in mediation. Her work is slated for publication in the Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, Volume 35, in the forthcoming article, Implicit Bias and the Case for Testing and Redress Prior to Mediation. The article argues that all humans have implicit biases, and as a mediator, one should test to identify those biases so that they may be addressed prior to mediations.

When asked what she expects to see for the next fifty years of history at Pepperdine Caruso Law, Shadeequa hopes to witness the continued growth of diversity of the student body and more emphasis on Public Service and Alternative Law tracks.

Hailing from Mississippi, Shadeequa holds a J.D. from The University of Mississippi School of Law, and a B.A. in criminal justice from The University of Southern Mississippi. This week, we are proud to turn the spotlight on this alumna who is at the forefront of criminal justice reform.