John Smith

Partner (Retired), Covington & Burling LLP

John Thomas Smith II joined Covington & Burling as an associate in 1974 after military service and stints at several government agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Departments of Health, Education and Welfare, Defense and Justice. He re-entered public service in 1976 as General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Commerce and subsequently in 1977 as the Department of State's Deputy Special Representative to the Third United Nations Law of the Sea Conference.


Mr. Smith became a partner in 1978, and until retirement in 2006, was a principal in the firm's Environmental Practice. He also served from 1983 to 1990 as outside general counsel to the Association for Manufacturing Technology, the trade association of the US machine tool industry. Further, he participated in the firm's representation of major petroleum companies in litigation pertaining to offshore oil and gas leasing and exploration. In 1990 he helped represent Exxon in negotiations with the Department of Justice to resolve civil and criminal liabilities arising from the Valdez oil spill.


During the 1980s, Mr. Smith represented the Chemical Manufacturers' Association in extensive rulemaking and litigation regarding regulation of management of solid and hazardous waste. He became a recognized expert on the interpretation and implementation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and associated regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency.


Beginning in 1989 he led the firm's establishment of an office in Brussels, Belgium, and he served as head of this new office from 1990-1991. In Brussels, his practice focused on emerging European Community environmental health and safety directives.


During the final 15 years of his career, Mr. Smith represented petroleum, mining, and chemical companies in disputes with federal and state authorities regarding compliance with environmental regulations and liability for historical contamination.


In the course of his career, Mr. Smith contributed numerous articles to journals and trade press on diverse topics, including Law of the Sea; national and international regulation of solid and hazardous waste; and standards for measuring and assessing damages to natural resources. After retirement, Mr. Smith published a memoir recounting professional involvements of three generations of his family in industry, diplomacy, and law entitled Cars, Energy, Nuclear Diplomacy and the Law (Roman & Littlefield, 2012).


Mr. Smith has served or continues to serve on non-profit boards including the Council for Excellence in Government (2000-2008); The Elliot L. Richardson Prize Fund; the Talbot Hospice Foundation, and the Academy Art Museum of Easton, Maryland.

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