Legal Community Reacts to Death of Judge Smith Camp

Judge Laurie Smith Camp ad-dresses the Creighton University School of Law Class of 2022 before administering a law student oath Aug. 13, 2019. (Christopher Tierney/Creighton University)
David Golbitz and Scott Stewart
The Daily Record

Members of the Nebraska legal community are in mourning for Judge Laurie Smith Camp, who is remembered as a friend, mentor, leader and role model.

Smith Camp is survived by her two children, Jonathan and Abby.

Information on funeral services were pending Friday morning.

Here are some additional reflections on Smith Camp shared with The Daily Record:


“Judge Smith Camp was more than an outstanding judge and leader on this Court. To many of us, she was a mentor, true friend and confidante. Our prayers go out to Judge Smith Camp’s family and to everyone who has been personally touched by the wisdom and grace of this fabulous woman.

“The entire federal court family is devastated by the sudden and unexpected loss of Senior Judge Laurie Smith Camp. Judge Smith Camp was not just an outstanding judge and a true leader on our Court, but she was a gracious mentor, friend, and confidante to so many individuals in both the courthouse and the community. She truly was the Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Nebraska legal community. And I say that with the highest regard to both of these amazing women. Like Justice Ginsburg, Judge Smith Camp was a pioneer and advocate of women’s rights, a wonderful mother, and she did it all with a quiet grace, compassion and leading by example. Her legacy is profound and her historical mark on Nebraska’s federal court is permanent.”

John M. Gerrard

Chief U.S. District Court Judge


“Judge Smith Camp was a remarkable person and judge. She was brilliant, humorous and kind. Nebraska has lost a great jurist. We will miss her.”

Joe Kelly

U.S. Attorney


“Judge Smith Camp’s passing was a complete surprise.

“Judge Smith Camp was an excellent and intelligent judge. She had a perfect judicial temperament and was always very cordial. She was committed to the equal protection of the law and the right to counsel. Judge Smith Camp enjoyed history and she was largely responsible for the tribute to Chief Standing Bear in the Hruska federal courthouse.

“Judge Smith Camp will be greatly missed. My deepest condolences and sympathy goes to her family.”

David Stickman

U.S. Public Defender


“The Nebraska Supreme Court expresses condolences to the family of Judge Laurie Smith Camp and to all of her colleagues in Nebraska’s federal judiciary. Judge Smith Camp was a caring and compassionate trial court judge who was recognized by all in the legal community for her intelligent and skilled application of the law to her many and varied cases. As an administrator she worked closely with the Nebraska state court system to share resources and cooperate whenever possible. She will be greatly missed.

“On a personal note, she was a close friend who was always supportive to me and others through good times and bad. She was a gracious hostess, skilled conversationalist and generous to all with her time and resources. This is a sad day for the legal profession and for the State of Nebraska.”

Michael Heavican

Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice


“She was a tremendous jurist. Always polite, always greeted you with a smile. Extremely intelligent. She was the benchmark for what a judge should be in every way imaginable.

“I practiced in front of her when I was in private practice, quite a bit. I always felt she had an innate sense of fairness, she always listened to my arguments. Whether she ruled against you or in your favor, she always did it with class and with a well-reasoned decision.

“I’ll be candid with you, she is truly a loss to all judges, not only in the state of Nebraska, but nationwide.

“She was at all times even-tempered, an impartial arbiter, fair, kind. She was able to inherently separate her life experiences and values and decide her cases fairly and impartially, just on the facts as they were presented to her. And she had all the human characteristics, honesty, integrity, her ability to apply the law to the facts that you would want in a jurist.

“I can honestly say that she vigorously applied herself to the job at hand. And she worked tireless to make sure that all litigants were heard in her courtroom.”

Horacio Wheelock

Douglas County District Court Judge


“It was an honor of a lifetime to work with Judge Smith Camp. Her kindness and generosity knew no bounds. Her professionalism was second to none. She stood as an inspiration to generations of attorneys in Nebraska and beyond.

“It is nearly impossible to overstate the impact Judge Smith Camp has had on the practice of law and legal community in Nebraska. In every way, she was a leader among her peers, and did every-thing in her power to show what the best of the legal profession looked like.

 “Every fall, Judge Smith Camp would come to the event welcoming new attorneys into law practice. She would make a point to meet every new attorney, and learn about them. Judge Smith Camp cared so deeply about the legal profession, and the important role that attorneys and judges hold in our society to bend the arc of history towards justice for all.

“The Nebraska legal community has lost one of its biggest and brightest stars, someone who was looked up to by so many. Our world is darker today without her light.

“We honor Judge Smith Camp by following her example by being kind, generous, and thoughtful, by being the best possible attorneys we can be.”

Dave Sommers

Omaha Bar Association Executive Director


“I’m deeply saddened. She’s definitely a person who is going to be missed. I remember the first time I met her I thought, that is the epitome of what a judge or a lawyer should be, just the way she conducted herself, the way she carried herself. She was always just top-notch.

“I always appreciated practicing in her court. She was thoughtful. She was eloquent. Her orders were always, as far as I’m concerned, they were always great, because I was on the good end of them. I just talked to her last month and told her that.

“We had a lot of conversations in the last five, six, seven months, on behalf of the Omaha Bar Association. I was very excited for her ideas, her energy and enthusiasm. I was really looking forward to her as president.

“My year was not the year that I envisioned, but I’m glad I was able to keep things going just long enough so that Judge Smith Camp could take them over and make them a million times better, which I’m sure she would’ve, over the next year. I’m sad that the Omaha Bar will not have her at the helm for the next year.

“She was just a wonderful human being. I always tell my kids that I hope that someday they just become good human beings. That’s really the goal for a parent. Every time I talked to her was a pleasure. She was a genuine, kind person, just super-smart. I can’t say enough good things about her. I’m very much going to miss her.”

William Acosta-Trejo

2019-20 Omaha Bar Association President


“The Honorable Judge Smith Camp was an iconic role model for all who appeared before her whether as a lawyer, juror, witness or litigant. She lived the oath she took as a judge. She evinced that oath in the manner she ran the courtroom. She epitomized the best of our profession. She was a mentor to young lawyers.  She was an inspiration to women. My last conversation with her was about the 19th Amendment. We discussed the importance of understanding how the implementation of those rights is still a work in progress. She was taken before her work was done. We will miss her. We will honor her legacy by treating each other with respect and honor, as she did. Sleep well, my friend.”

Jill Robb Ackerman

Partner at Baird Holm LLP


“Laurie Smith Camp was one of the most generous and thoughtful people I have ever known.  As a lawyer and judge she possessed the talent and scholarship that garnered the highest respect by her fellow judges, lawyers and the public. Her passing creates a void that diminishes our court and our community.”

Joe Bataillon

Senior U.S. District Judge


“Judge Smith Camp was a smart, well-respected jurist who committed her life to serving her community and upholding the rule of law. She served her community for years and was an impeccable jurist who paved the way for women in the legal field in Nebraska. Melissa and I mourn her death. We pray tonight for her family and loved ones.”

Ben Sasse

Junior U.S. Senator for Nebraska


“Today Nebraska lost one of its finest citizens. Judge Smith Camp was a friend and a well-respected jurist. I appreciated her counsel on the three vacancies on Nebraska’s federal courts we worked to fill. I am saddened by her passing and send my deepest condolences to her family.”

Deb Fischer

Senior U.S. Senator for Nebraska


“Susanne and I are shocked and saddened that Judge Smith Camp has unexpectedly passed away. Before becoming a federal judge, she was a highly-respected attorney in both private practice and public service. Outside of her legal career, she was a friend to the arts and a deeply-involved member of the community. We celebrate her work and will long remember her contributions to the Good Life.”

Pete Ricketts

Governor of Nebraska


“Judge Smith Camp will be remembered for her long and distinguished career of service. 

“She was a role model for all women in leadership, displaying expertise in her courtroom, strength, grace and poise; qualities I admire.

“In 2013, I was tremendously honored to take the oath of office as Omaha's first woman mayor, from Judge Smith Camp, the first woman appointed as U.S. District Judge in Nebraska.”

Jean Stothert

Mayor of Omaha


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