Professional Background

Former Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Doris A. Smith-Ribner obtained her undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Pittsburgh and thereafter received a J.D. Law Degree from the University of Pittsburgh, School of Law.

Smith-Ribner served as a state appeals court judge for 21-l/2 years before stepping down in July 2009 from Commonwealth Court, a statewide appeals court that decides matters involving local and state government.  In addition to her judicial duties on the court, Smith-Ribner obtained certification in mediation and in 2000 develop a successful statewide mediation program for the court to serve litigants and members of the bar.  The program is in its 12th year.

Smith-Ribner served for more than a decade on the PA Judicial Auditing Agency that reviews and approves audits of all state court expenditures and was chair for 5 years.  Prior to statewide judicial office, she served an interim term as a trial court judge on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas (Juvenile Division).

Prior to assuming her judicial offices, Smith-Ribner practiced law in Pittsburgh, handling civil and criminal litigation in federal and state courts.  At the same time she served as Solicitor for the Allegheny County Controller and handled cases involving surcharge claims against public officials, litigated first-impression cases on behalf of the taxpayers and researched/issued opinions on government auditing issues.

For 5 years, Smith-Ribner served on a PA Supreme Court Disciplinary Board Hearing Committee and also served for 5 years as a Commissioner on the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission by appointments from Governors Shapp and Thornburgh.

Professional Activities/Achievements

Smith-Ribner was appointed by the University of Pittsburgh’s Chancellor to the Board of Visitors of the Law School and has served the board for 15 years.  In 2000 she began implementing a national judicial externship/clerkship program that she developed, which has placed law students and law school graduates into externships and clerkships in federal and states courts throughout the country.

Widener University awarded Smith-Ribner an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2003.

In 2006 Smith-Ribner was appointed by the Supreme Court as its designee to the “Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission for Gender Racial and Ethnic Fairness” that conducts research and makes recommendations for insuring equal access and fair treatment to persons who enter the state’s unified judicial system.  She served on the Commission until 2009 and currently serves on two of its committees.

In 2011 Smith-Ribner was appointed as a member of the PA Justice Reinvestment Work Group (U.S. Justice Department BJA initiative), created to undertake an analysis of the state’s criminal justice system and to develop policies to improve public safety and to reduce corrections spending.

Smith-Ribner organized a statewide prisoner reentry summit held in 2011 and hosted by Widener Law School to focus on public safety issues, and she also co-organized a 2012 Southwestern PA prisoner reentry conference hosted by Pittsburgh University School of Law.  She has presented at law enforcement and other forums on reentry/public safety issues and has attended various justice reinvestment meetings and conferences.

Smith-Ribner has been a member of various professional organizations, including the American Bar Association, National Bar Association and Pennsylvania Bar Association.  She has served on the boards of various civic and community organizations as a jurist and as an attorney admitted to practice before state and federal courts.

Smith-Ribner is part of the Philadelphia International Visitors’ Council and on behalf of the Council has hosted officials traveling to Philadelphia from throughout the world.

Speaking Engagements (include but not limited to):

  • Philadelphia Bar Association, Women’s Division CLE Program
    (PA Interbranch Commmision 10th Anniversary)
  • The 190th Pennsylvania Legislative District Image Awards Ceremony
  • PA County Bar Associations, Presidents’ Conference
  • PA Trial Judges Conference (Diversity and Non-Discrimination)
  • National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives Annual Conference (Md)
  • PA Appellate Courts Conference, UJS Non-Discrimination Policy
  • PA Bar Association, Philadelphia, Diversity Summit
  • PA Interbranch Comm’n Annual Mtg-National Consortium on Race/Ethnic Bias in Courts
  • American Clergy Leadership Conference, Women in Ministry National Conference
  • Allentown, PA Chapter, NAACP Annual Banquet
  • Berean Institute, Philadelphia, Women’s Leadership Conference
  • Pittsburgh University, School of Law, Commencement Speaker
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern Division, Naturalization Ceremony
  • Math, Science & Civic Charter School, First Graduation Class Ceremony
  • Widener Law School, Commencement Speaker
  • PA Bar Association, Minority Lawyers’ Conference
  • Germantown Jewish Centre, Women’s Club Membership Luncheon
  • PA Legal Services, MLK Internship Annual Recognition Program
  • Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Annual Leadership Conference
  • Pennsylvania Black Conference on Higher Education, Annual Meeting

Awards/Honors (include but not limited to):

  • Citation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
  • “Lifetime Achievement Award,” National Congress of Black Women, Delaware County
  • National Alliance of Women Veterans, Inc. “Certificate of Appreciation”
  • Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia “Thaddeus Stevens Award”
  • Resolution from Philadelphia City Council
  • National Bar Association Judicial Council, Clifford Scott Green Chapter “Eagle Award”
  • “Women’s Movers and Shakers Award,” American Women’s Heritage Society et al
  • National Association of Women Judges “Color of Justice Program” Award
  • Inducted into “Women Pioneers’ Hall of Fame,” Southwest Belmont Community Association
  • National Bar Association Judicial Council “Distinguished Service Award”
  • “Raymond Pace Alexander Award,” National Bar Association Judicial Council
  • University of Pittsburgh “Distinguished Alumni Award”
  • PA Bar Association “Chairman’s Independent Jurist Award” (Minority Bar)
  • Proclamation from Pittsburgh City Council
  • Special Tribute from Erie City Council
  • Philadelphia MLK, Jr. Assoc. for Nonviolence “Drum Major for Social Justice Award”
  • University of Pittsburgh School of Law “Outstanding Alumna Award”
  • Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia “Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. Award”
  • Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. “Citizen of the Year Award”
  • Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. “Award of Appreciation”
  • YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh “8th Annual Tribute to Women” Leadership Award
  • Proclamation from Allegheny County Board of Commissioners
  • “Appreciation Award” for Dedicated Service to Allegheny County Youth/Families
  • Friends Indeed, Inc. “Big Sister of the Year Award”