Brendan Smith

Brendan Smith, J.D. student

Dissects constitutional law

“Brendan’s creative and careful research on a complex, timely and important issue went well beyond the requirements for the Reproductive Law and Justice tutorial in which he wrote this paper. It was recently accepted for publication in the National Law Review.” – Ann Estin,  Aliber Family Chair in Law

Hometown: Canton, MA
Faculty mentor/advisor: Professor Ann Laquer Estin, Associate Dean for Faculty & Aliber Family Chair in Law and Professor Todd Pettys, H. Blair and Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation

What is your degree program and expected graduate date? I am a law student and expect to graduate in May 2022.
Please describe your research: My research focuses on the ways in which courts review state and federal laws that impact constitutional rights. In a recent paper, I proposed a new model through which reproductive rights organizations can challenge state laws restricting fundamental reproductive rights. Currently, I am working on a framework that courts can use when weighing constitutional rights against emergency public health initiatives.
In simple terms, why does this research matter? This research matters because it explores ways to protect constitutional rights. My research on reproductive rights will create more opportunities for organizations to challenge restrictive abortion statutes. My current research will ensure that states have enough leeway to respond to future emergencies without infringing too heavily on constitutional rights.
How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I started researching during my second year of law school. I worked as a Research Assistant for Professor Todd Pettys and took research-intensive classes like Reproductive Law and Justice and Media Law.
How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Being involved in research has helped me improve my writing and critical thinking skills. It has taught me how to effectively read and summarize complex cases and statutes. During my classes and internships, I have relied heavily on these writing and critical thinking skills that I developed during my research projects.
What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I am moving to Birmingham, AL after graduating and plan to work in appellate law. Appellate attorneys spend significant amounts of time researching and writing about the relevant legal issues in the case. My experience at the University of Iowa has directly prepared me to succeed in this area of law.
Does your research have connections to or implications for COVID-19? Please explain. My current research explores the approaches that federal courts have taken when reviewing COVID-19 laws and executive orders. It also proposes a test that judges can employ when considering the constitutionality of legal responses to public health emergencies like COVID-19.

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