Ventura County Counsel Leroy Smith spots and meets celebrities wherever he goes. This is probably a function of growing up in the Hollywood-adjacent San Fernando Valley as a cruiser on Van Nuys Boulevard, and then traveling the country as an athlete. Smith met Bear Bryant while being recruited to play linebacker for Alabama, and watched Crimson Tide practice in the tower with the Bear. Smith once met Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck in the rival Wrigley Field bleachers and convinced Veeck to prank the Cubs fans by treating Smith like a rookie baseball phenom. When the Clippers basketball team had training camp at University of San Diego, Smith, by then a law student, was in the gym playing pickup games with them. It seems that Smith, Ventura County Counsel since July, 2010, traveled the world to seek out and contest sports notables. This may explain why he regularly spends lunch hours in the Government Center backlot playing basketball with county employees who banded together for a creative wellness program of outdoor pickup games.
After attending college on a D1 football scholarship at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts and earning an economics degree, Smith attended The University of San Diego Law School, graduating cum laude.
After law school, Smith accepted a two-year clerkship with the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Administrative Law Judges in Washington, D.C. While in D.C., Smith attended a Holy Cross alumni wine and cheese affair at the Hart Senate Office Building, where he met his future wife, your reporter, Kathi Smith, who was a Georgetown Law student planning to see the world by getting a job in a big city. The two drove west and settled in Los Angeles. Leroy worked for the U.S. Department of Labor prosecuting Fair Labor Standards Act violations and is proud of his role as trial attorney in McLaughlin v. Ho Fat Seto, a garment industry case setting the rule for non-testifying employees to receive back pay based on representative testimony. Smith spent three years in private practice in Century City where he practiced employment law on the employer side. So, his employment career worked both sides of the ball.
During their time in L.A., Leroy and Kathi had three children, who rightly believe they should be featured prominently in this profile. Caitlin is a Stanford graduate who is a Ph.D. student at USC. Dan is a Berkeley biology graduate aspiring to work in science public policy in D.C. Matt is about to graduate from George Washington University in D.C., and also plans a public policy career. All three attended Ojai public schools, benefiting from Kathi’s childrearing hiatus from law and Leroy’s sports team coaching for each of them: softball, basketball, and flag football. Many championships of the Ojai Recreation Department were won by Smith teams.
Leroy Smith was hired at Ventura County Counsel in 1989 when Jim McBride was County Counsel. Smith’s responsibility was employment law, advising and litigating for all county agencies through the years. Smith was eventually promoted into management, becoming Litigation Supervisor in 2001 when Frank Sieh was County Counsel. County Counsel Noel Klebaum named Smith Chief Assistant County Counsel, and the Board of Supervisors appointed Smith as County Counsel when Klebaum retired in 2010. County Counsel’s job is multifaceted, requiring attendance at supervisors’ meetings, constant availability for legal questions from supervisors and agency heads, and management of the office.
Fortunately, Smith is supported by management attorneys – Michael Walker, Chief Assistant, and Alberto Boada, Litigation Supervisor – and Staff/Services Manager, Sheila Deleo, who work to support and enable the 24 attorneys, two paralegals and nine assistants at County Counsel to provide solid, high quality civil legal services to county agencies and the Board of Supervisors.
Smith keeps an Albert Einstein quote on his office wall: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” If this quote tells you anything about Leroy Smith, it explains this lifelong athlete’s drive for simple, perfect accuracy – like a nothing but- net jump shot out on the tarmac in the California sun.
Kathleen J. Smith is a civil litigation attorney at Norman Dowler LLP and on the CITATIONS Editorial Board