By: Kyle Smiddie, SSW'11, NLAW '11
Kyle, who goes by the last name “Smiddie,” was raised off a dirt road on a 40-acre farm in Southeastern Ohio. He took the bus to high school every morning, a one hour, 15 minute ride sitting in the back with lifelong friend Steve, who was his best man at his wedding 20 years later. After high school, Smiddie moved to the East Coast to go to college and later received his M.S.W. and J.D. from Rutgers University.
Today, he works as a trial attorney at the United States Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. He is in the same unit that investigated police misconduct in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore,
Maryland. His practice focuses on the constitutional treatment of prisoners in the country's jails and prisons as well as the enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure individuals with developmental disabilities can live in communities with the supports they need. Because of the sensitive nature of his work, this day reflects a representative snapshot, but is not based on an actual day.
At 6:42 a.m., my iPhone alarm goes off without fail. My dad, who spent his life as a civil rights activist, stressed the importance of breakfast before going off to work. Because of this, I make oatmeal or eggs and watch ESPN to get ready for the day.
By 7:39 a.m., I catch the Number 8 bus to the Redline Metro train. When I finally arrive at the generic, government-looking Patrick Henry Building situated evenly between the United States Congress to the left and the White House to the right.
At 8:30 a.m., I water the small bamboo tree on my desk and start my day. The morning often consists of meetings and phone calls. This day, it's a call with a psychiatrist who is an expert in an investigation on adequate mental health care in a jail. She explains her evaluation of what the jail should be doing better for three detainees we met on the tour of the jail a few weeks earlier.
Around 10:30 a.m., I travel to Virginia with two colleagues of mine (a community outreach specialist and another attorney) by rental car to meet with the Arc of Virginia to talk with families about their need of crisis services for their loved ones who have developmental disabilities. The Arc of Virginia is an organization that promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental. During the meeting, self-advocates talk with us about the apartments they have recently moved into thanks, in part, to a settlement agreement between the Department of Justice and the State of Virginia.
I start to prepare internal training for an upcoming meeting on community outreach and stakeholder engagement around 1:40 p.m., but then am interruptedby an email at 2 p.m. from a lawye in North Carolina about the lawsuit they've filed regarding solitary confinement conditions in a prison.
At 3:30 p.m., I stretch my legs by walking around the office talking with colleagues about overlaps in our cases. After I visit everyone, I add mini candy bars (Snickers and Butterfingers) to the pottery bowl that my dad made when I was 10 years. It's glazed with blue flowers and sits on my desk like a little reminder of him. Don't judge—lawyers need some social work self-care too.
When 5:15 p.m. rolls around, I wrap up my work day by making a series of “to-do” notes. I head back to the metro, walking down Courthouse Row. When I get home to my little, colonial brick home in Silver Spring (all houses in Silver Spring are little, colonial, and brick), my one-year-old daughter Katie, is serving pretend tea with my wife, or reciting Shakespeare (depending on her mood). I mile at how lucky I am.
After Katie goes to bed at 8:30 p.m., my wife and I sit on the sofa to relax with a handful of frozen Nestle chocolate chips and watch Damages on Netflix...One way to recharge before the start of a new day at the office.