Making the world a better place
Effecting change by guiding people through challenging situations
While attending Walla Walla University, Peter J. Smith IV took a year away from college to volunteer in Monteverde, Costa Rica, where he and a friend taught sixth, seventh and eighth grade students.
“We spent the year living in an 8- by 10- foot shack attached to the school in the cloud forest,” Smith says. “We met a lot of great people and I hope we positively influenced the kids. When I came back, I knew I wanted to be an attorney.”
Smith pursued that dream and attended Pepperdine University School of Law. Then, he went to work as an associate attorney for Lukins & Annis in Coeur d’Alene, making partner in 2009.
In 2015, Smith co-founded Smith + Malek with his friend Luke Malek.
“It was, and still is, a lot of work,” he says. “We are blessed with a really great team and really great clients.”
Smith says he calls on the other attorneys at Smith + Malek to make the world a better place, and seeks to do the same himself.
“My goal is to make tomorrow better than today for those around me,” Smith says. “We do this every day by guiding people through challenging situations. We should always try to reduce conflict and stress and lead people to a better future.”
Alex Abdo, litigation director for the Knight First Amendment Institute, says Smith was instrumental in helping bring scrutiny to the National Security Agency’s call surveillance powers.
A week after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents revealing that the NSA had been collecting the call records of millions of U.S. residents, Smith filed one of the first lawsuits challenging that surveillance program: Smith v. Obama, filed in the district of Idaho.
According to Abdo, Smith’s suit foreshadowed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Carpenter v. United States, which found that it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment for the government to access records containing the physical locations of mobile phones without a warrant.
“Peter’s lawsuit was a courageous act of lawyering and leadership.” Abdo says. “He took advantage of America’s great equalizer — the rule of law — to hold our government to account for an illegal aggrandizement of power.”
However, Smith says his most significant accomplishment in life is marrying his wife and having three children with her.
“The primary influence in my life is my wife, Anna,” he says. “She provides me more support than she knows. It is because of her love and hard work that I am where I am today.”