Fall 2020 UK Law Notes magazine

Page 21

alumni impact



ajor Jenohn LeShea Smith ’04 has committed herself to paying forward the mentoring she received from family members, law professors and colleagues. As a Black female officer and the founder of a scholarship for Black female UK Rosenberg Law students, Smith believes in mentoring women and women of color. She has helped many people have their voices heard. Smith loves the law. She grew up with a father who served as a civil rights attorney and defense attorney. After completing her master’s degree at the University of Louisville, Smith applied to law school at the University of Kentucky, where her sister was an undergraduate. “I thought it was an awesome opportunity to be there with her at the same time,” Smith said. “Dad was a worker’s compensation judge at that time and heard cases in Lexington and Pikeville. He always stopped to see me when he was passing through. Dad died in 2013, so my time at UK College of Law is more special because I spent so much time with him during those three years.” Smith looks back on her professors with respect. Her greatest influence was Professor Roberta Harding, who taught classes about race, capital punishment and criminal law. “Professor Harding made me a better, more objective attorney. Race and the Law taught me about the intersectionality between race, gender and the law. It was so profound. I lived those issues, but couldn’t articulate them until that class,” she said. “I still refer to that notebook.” Her Trial Advocacy course and an internship with the Fayette Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office helped her hone her interest in criminal prosecution. After passing the bar exam, she joined

the Hardin Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, where she prosecuted felonies and learned from colleagues, both prosecutors and defense counsel. “I had a lot of people who challenged me, making me a better prosecutor and trial advocate,” she said. Within the first year, Smith prosecuted a defendant who sexually assaulted his children and stepchild. The jury recommended consecutive life sentences. “That was a major accomplishment for me, because I was questioning myself at the time. I wasn’t sure I was the right prosecutor for that case,” she said. After serving in Hardin County for eight years, Smith moved to Douglasville, Georgia, in 2013. In private practice, she focused on estate planning, military and veterans’ law, and family law. In 2016, she moved to Washington, D.C., to serve as a sexual assault investigator for the National Guard.

“The greatest accomplishment for me today is being the best mentor I can be. We have very few Black female officers. It’s important that I always have an open door and safe space for anyone.” With her focus on education and mentoring, Smith created the Be Encouraged scholarship for Black female UK Rosenberg Law students. “That is my way to give back to the community, to build it up by paying it forward. I’ve also reached out to my colleagues to create scholarships at their alma maters. I’m a champion of Black women because so many women were champions for me.” RUTH PAARMANN

“I loved serving as an investigator. I traveled all over the nation, basically giving people a voice. No matter the outcome, many victims and alleged perpetrators appreciated the opportunity to be heard.” In late 2017, after completing 16 investigations, Jenohn LeShea returned to Louisville to serve as Staff Judge Advocate for the 123d Airlift Wing, Kentucky Air National Guard (KY ANG). As Staff Judge Advocate, she advises the Wing Commander and 21 subordinate commands, and is responsible for legal services for approximately 1,250 KY ANG members and dependents, as well as retirees and Veterans from all Services. “It’s a position of trust to advise my Commander on state and federal missions and personnel issues,” she said. “Most of my job is issue-spotting and risk analysis, the foundation for which began in law school.” UK LAW NOTES | FALL 2020


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