Position: Director of Litigation
Attorneys, Past Fellows
Mary-Lee Smith is the Director of Litigation at Disability Rights Advocates. Ms. Smith joined DRA in 2005 as a Disability Rights Advocates/Westrec Marinas Fellow. Ms. Smith’s practice has been focused on complex class actions that advance the civil rights of persons with disabilities. She is an advocate for persons with all types of disabilities, from mobility to psychiatric, and has litigated precedent-setting class action cases involving discrimination in all facets of life, from transportation to technology.
After 10 years at DRA, Ms. Smith remains committed to not only defending but also expanding the civil rights of persons with disabilities. Ms. Smith has worked on a diverse array of cases. She began her career at DRA working on and eventually settling a state-wide class action lawsuit against the California Department of Transportation (“Caltrans”) addressing access along Caltrans sidewalks which resulted in a landmark settlement requiring Caltrans to spend $1.1 billion over the next 30 years to provide access to its sidewalks throughout the state. Ms. Smith also helped successfully establish legal precedent, in a case against the City of Los Angeles, requiring emergency and disaster planning efforts to take into account the needs of persons with disabilities. Most recently, Ms. Smith litigated and eventually settled a case which will result in the prohibition of solitary confinement for all youth confined in Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall as well as the provision of special education services for youth with disabilities in that facility. Ms. Smith has also worked on class actions against the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, which will result in New York City’s yellow taxi fleet becoming the most accessible taxi fleet in the nation.
Ms. Smith has twice been named an Attorney of the Year by California Lawyer Magazine, first in 2011 for her work on the Caltrans case, and again in 2013 for her work on the Los Angeles emergency planning case. In 2014, Ms. Smith was named one of the Daily Journal’s Top Women Lawyers.
Ms. Smith received her law degree from University of California Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall) in 2005, her Masters of Art from Stanford University in Political Science in 2001 and her Bachelors of Arts from The University of Chicago, also in Political Science, in 1998. Ms. Smith is admitted to practice in all California Courts, the U.S. District Court of California (Northern, Central and Eastern Districts) and the U.S. Court of Appeals (Ninth Circuit).« Back to All Staff