United States Magistrate Judge Thomas B. Smith passed away peacefully at his home in Orlando on September 7, 2023, surrounded by those who loved him most: Jill, his wife of thirty four years; their son Sam; daughter Emily, her husband Derek and their two children, Vivian and Robert Benton. Tom’s determination and grace in battling cancer in the final months of his too short life will serve as a continuing inspiration for all those who knew and loved him.
Tom was born November 12, 1952 in Muskegon, Michigan, the only child of Benton and Medrith Smith. The family moved to New Smyrna Beach when he was five years old, and relocated to the College Park neighborhood of Orlando two years later. He attended Princeton Elementary, Robert E. Lee Middle School and graduated from Edgewater High School in 1970.He attended Florida Southern College and then the University of South Florida, from which he graduated in 1974. While in college, Judge Smith was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. He attended the University of Florida Law School, graduating in 1977. While in law school, he joined the Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity . Judge Smith was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1978.
Judge Smith began his distinguished legal career in 1978 as a sole practitioner, and in 1979 became an Assistant State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit. In 1982 Judge Smith joined the law firm of Maguire, Voorhis & Wells, P.A., where he practiced business litigation. In 1998, the Maguire firm combined its practice with the national and international law firm of Holland & Knight, LLP where Judge Smith continued his litigation practice as a partner in that firm. Judge Smith held an AV rating, the highest given by Martindale Hubbell.
In December of 2001, Governor Jeb Bush appointed Judge Smith to the Circuit Court Bench for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, where he served for nine years. While on the state court bench, Judge Smith was a leader of the committee that instituted the first business court in the State of Florida. He was appointed by the Florida Supreme Court as the inaugural Chairman of the Florida Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions – Contract and Business Cases. During his service on the state court bench, Judge Smith also founded and served as a director of the American College of Business Court Judges, and served as a director of the George C. Young First Central Florida Inn of Court and the Central Florida Family Law Inn of Court. He also served as a member of the Executive Council of the Business Law Section of the Florida Bar for twenty years. He was a pioneer known both statewide and nationally for his cutting edge innovations in the field of business litigation. His expertise with new technology, such as E-discovery, in civil and criminal cases was groundbreaking. His service in these various capacities did much to streamline and improve the business litigation process, and his contributions through these several organizations will stand as a perpetual reminder of his dedication to the legal profession in general and the improvement of the field of business litigation in particular.
In 2011 Judge Smith was appointed a United States Magistrate Judge for the Middle District of Florida, and served in that capacity in the Orlando and Ocala Divisions until his retirement in 2019. He was recalled for two additional years of service, and fully retired in 2021.
Judge Smith and his family travelled extensively both within the U.S. and around the world, including Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, France, Germany ,Israel, England, Scotland, Ireland, The Netherlands and the Czech Republic. They particularly enjoyed family time spent in their mountain home in North Carolina,
Judge Smith was preceded in death by his parents, and is survived by his wife, Jill; their daughter Emily, her husband. Derek, and their children, Vivian and Robert Benton; and their son Sam.
Tom was a wonderful and loving husband, father and grandfather; a great and much admired partner and litigator, and a highly regarded and respected jurist. His career as an attorney and judge was marked by his dedication to his partners, his clients, his fellow jurists, those who appeared before him and the profession. He will be sorely missed, fondly remembered and forever loved by those he leaves behind.
There will be a celebration of Judge Smith’s life on October 27, at 4:00 p.m., at the George C. Young Federal Annex Courthouse, 401 West Central Boulevard, Orlando, Florida. A reception at the courthouse will follow the service.