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Three Persons Recommended for Superior Court Vacancy Created by the Retirement of Judge Geoffrey A. Alprin

Monday, February 1, 2010
Learn about the nominees selected to fill a judicial vacancy on the Superior Court of DC

The District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission (“Commission”) has forwarded to President Barack Obama the names of three lawyers for his consideration in selecting a nominee to fill a judicial vacancy on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The President has sixty (60) days to select a nominee to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of the Honorable Geoffrey A. Alprin.

The Commission recommends the following three candidates to fill the vacancy:

Maria C.T. Amato is the General Counsel for the DC Department of Corrections, a position she has held since 2006. Ms. Amato practiced in the local private sector from 1987 until 1992. From 1992 to 2006, she worked in the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, serving as an Assistant Attorney General, Section Chief for the Civil Rights Section, and Senior Litigator in the Equity Division. In the Attorney General’s office, Ms. Amato defended the government in a broad spectrum of litigation including habeas corpus petitions, personal injury, negligent supervision, assault, medical malpractice, and constitutional rights. Her legal experience spans a variety of disciplines including corrections, institutional systems of delivery of medical and mental health care, the juvenile justice system, special education, foster care and adoption and services for persons with disabilities. She also has litigated in civil rights class actions and institutional reform litigation involving essential services for inmates and special needs populations in need of government services and programs. As General Counsel to the Department of Corrections, Ms. Amato has further diversified her experience to include criminal law, legislative and regulatory work, and contract and transactional issues. Ms. Amato was born in Cairo, Egypt and immigrated to the United States as a child. She graduated from Seton Hall University in 1984, and earned her law degree from the American University Washington College of Law in 1987.

Robert D. Okun has been a prosecutor in the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for approximately 16 years. For most of the past 12 years, Mr. Okun has served as the Chief of the Special Proceedings Division, which responds to all post-conviction motions. Mr. Okun also has served as Special Counsel to the US Attorney for Professional Development and Legal Policy, where he oversaw the US Attorney’s Office’s professional development program and represented the Office on numerous court and criminal justice committees. In addition, he serves as one of the US Attorney’s Office’s professional responsibility officers, advising and training Assistant US Attorneys on issues involving the Rules of Professional Conduct. Prior to joining the US Attorney’s Office, Mr. Okun served as a trial attorney at the US Department of Justice, working in both the Office of Consumer Litigation and the Fraud Section of the Civil Division. He also served in the Office of Policy and Evaluation at the Federal Trade Commission. Mr. Okun is a member of many courts and Bar committees, including the DC Bar’s Judicial Evaluation Committee, which he chairs. In addition, he chairs a hearing committee for the Board on Professional Responsibility, where he has presided over hearings involving alleged attorney misconduct. Mr. Okun has taught several law and law-related classes, including classes on white-collar crime at American University’s Washington College of Law, and on legal reasoning at American University’s School of Justice. For the past ten years he has taught classes on civic responsibility to fifth-grade students at public schools in the District of Columbia. Mr. Okun received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1984 and his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981. He clerked for the Honorable Frank E. Schwelb, then an associate judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Judith A. Smith is a Magistrate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Since her installation in 2008 she has served in the Family Court, handling cases of child abuse and neglect as well as adoptions, guardianships, custody cases and hearings in juvenile delinquency matters. Prior to her appointment to the Court, she served in the General Counsel’s office at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia handling federal special education matters. From 1994 to 1996, Magistrate Judge Smith served as a Staff Attorney in the Juvenile Services Program at the District of Columbia Public Defender Service, working on-site at the city’s juvenile detention centers. In 1996, she became the first Special Education Attorney at PDS and continued in that position until 2001. From 2001 to 2007, Magistrate Judge Smith handled special education legal matters as Director of Federal and Family Court, within the District of Columbia Public Schools. In 2007, she returned to the Public Defender Service as supervisor of the Juvenile Services Program. Prior to joining the Public Defender Service in 1994, Judge Smith handled criminal, delinquency and neglect matters in Superior Court and taught Street Law in Georgetown Law Center’s Correction’s Clinic. She is also a Certified Public Accountant and worked several years as an auditor for Price Waterhouse in Boston and Columbus, Ohio. Magistrate Judge Smith received her undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University and her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. She clerked for the Honorable A. Franklin Burgess, Jr. of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

All questions concerning the nomination application process should be directed to the Honorable Emmet G. Sullivan, Chair of the Judicial Nomination Commission at (202) 354-3260 or [email protected]