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Representing Episcopal Clergy and Dioceses in Canon Law Disciplinary (Title IV) and Dissolution (Title III) Proceedings



Telephone: 612-987-6546




I defend Episcopal priests, deacons and bishops accused of Title IV violations throughout all stages of the ecclesiastical disciplinary process.


I conduct Canonical investigations into alleged Title IV violations on behalf of individual Episcopal dioceses.


I represent rectors and bishops where dissolution of the pastoral relationship under Title III is sought.


I consult with Episcopal dioceses, faith communities and members of the clergy regarding other issues arising under the Canons.

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                     ABOUT SMITH LEGAL PLLC


Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church of the United States forms the backbone of the ecclesiastical disciplinary process.  For many Episcopal clergy, the mere mention of the phrase “Title IV” evokes feelings of fear, confusion and dread.  Many view its requirements as arcane and punitive.  But the personal, professional, emotional, financial and spiritual futures of members of the clergy accused of ecclesiastical wrongdoing, and of the communities, congregations and dioceses they serve, often rest on sucessfully navigating the Title IV thicket.


Though normally not governed by Title IV, disagreements arising between ordained and elected parish or diocesan leadership can have equally profound consequences.  Dissolving the pastoral relation, if it comes to that, is governed by Title III of the Canons via a procedure with which vestries, rectors and even bishops frequently have little experience.  Emotions often run high, and the stress and uncertainty of a pastoral dissolution can sometimes be overwhelming and debilitating.


I can help.  I am an attorney experienced in representing members of the clergy and Episcopal dioceses across the United States in Title III pastoral  dissolution and Title IV disciplinary matters.  For these roles, my background is unique.  Before embarking on a Canon law practice, I was a trial lawyer with over 35 years of courtroom experience throughout the country; I am a committed and devoted Episcopalian who has served the Church in a variety of roles; and, I am solidly grounded in Title III, Title IV and the other constitutional and canonical foundations of The Episcopal Church.  

My current legal practice is devoted to the resolution of Title III and Title IV Canonical disputes.  Where pastoral dissolution is sought or threatened, I represent members of the clergy seeking an outcome which safeguards their professional, spiritual, financial and emotional concerns and needs.  In Title IV matters, I represent Respondents accused of ecclesiastical wrongdoing throughout every step of the process, from the intake and referral phases to negotiating accords, challenging suspensions of ministry and, where necessary, litigating Conference Panel and Hearing Panel proceedings.  I also conduct comprehensive Title IV factual investigations on behalf of Episcopal dioceses in conformity with Canon IV.11.  My work in Title III and Title IV cases is nationwide in its scope, and my experience in these areas is substantial.  And along the way, I have garnered praise from clients, bishops, church attorneys, chancellors and others for my advocacy, professionalism, and dedication to my clients' interests.

No two matters are alike.  For some, the best outcome comes through thoughtful negotiation and cooperation; in other cases, zealous, professional advocacy is the proper call.  I am more than comfortable with both.  And in every matter I handle, it is an honor to serve the interests of my clients, and the Church as an institution, by guiding them toward a successful resolution of Title III and Title IV disputes.



Here's what you need to know about me.

Born and raised in Northwest Indiana, I graduated from Cornell University in 1976 with a B.S. with distinction in chemical engineering, and from the University of Michigan Law School in 1979 with a J.D. cum laude.

From 1979 until my "big firm" retirement in 2016, I was a civil trial lawyer with several large defense firms in Indianapolis and Minneapolis, where I have lived and practiced since 1986.  I tried civil cases to judges and juries in courts across the country, focusing on the defense of complex product liability, toxic exposure, and environmental disputes.   Along the way, I garnered accolades from clients, colleagues and judges for my written and oral advocacy, case preparation, trial skills and professionalism.

For essentially my entire adult life, I have also been a committed and devoted Episcopalian.  I have served my church in a myriad of ways, including multiple stints as Senior Warden and other leadership positions in my Minneapolis home parish, and as a past member of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota -- the latter providing me with a strong grounding in Canon law..  


In 2016, I formed Smith Legal PLLC, originally with an eye toward trial consulting, scientific case preparation for other trial lawyers and private practice legal work.  By happenstance, a close church friend familiar with my trial and Diocesan experience suggested that I merge those through representing parties in Title IV disciplinary proceedings.  I listened, and it took.   Over time, my Title IV work on behalf of members of the clergy grew, and I added Title IV investigations and Title III pastoral dissolutions to my portfolio.  Today, my legal practice is mostly confined to Canon law matters arising under Title III and Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church.  I also represent individuals in immigration-related matters on a pro bono basis as a volunteer attorney through the Minneapolis non-profit Advocates for Human Rights.

I remain admitted to practice as an attorney in good standing before the Supreme Court of Minnesota and Minnesota state and federal courts.  Though my Title III and Title IV Canon law work is national in its scope, I am careful to confine it to Canon law; where issues of state substantive law outside of Minnesota arise, as is sometimes the case in Title III pastoral dissolution matters, I will consult with or refer clients to counsel admitted to practice in those jurisdictions.

In our free time, my wife, Terri, and I are travel and outdoor activity junkies.  I remain active today with the Edina Chorale, with which I have sung for many years and served as a past President and Board member, and within my home parish in Minneapolis.  My prior community involvement includes serving as a Boy Scout scoutmaster, a 7th and 8th grade football coach, and a registered state high school track and field official, among many others.   We are the parents of two adult sons and Ozzie, our latest in a long line of over-pampered Golden Retrievers.



I would describe Scott Smith this way: thorough, pastoral, hard-working, compassionate, accessible. In one of the darkest moments of my professional life, Scott successfully navigated me through the canonical process all the while effectively serving as my advocate. He won a fair and equitable outcome for me so that I could move on with the fullness of my life and heal. His command of the Episcopal Church canons is impressive and deep - he knows his way around our processes which serves his clients in the best possible way. To me he is the embodiment of what Jesus said: “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Mat.10:16). .

Member of the Clergy, Diocese of Minnesota

. . . [H]aving gone through . . . this pastoral dissolution with you, I now see the value of lawyers AND the deep and abiding ministry you provide.  Thank you for being a wise, witty and wonderful shepherd and guide for me.  You are exactly where God needs you to be.


Member of the Clergy, Diocese of New Hanpshire

I found myself in a situation where I didn’t have the skills needed to defend myself.  Enter Scott Smith.  A lovely man, and as it turns out, bilingual - he could speak both church law and theology. A faithful Christian, Episcopalian, Scott came to my defense and was exactly what I needed. Calm. Empathetic. Factual. Prompt. Willing to do the hard work. Understood me. Told me the truth even when it was hard to hear. 100% of the time.  Respected my voice and my agency. Didn’t patronize me even once.  He felt safe.  And smart.  An advocate in the true sense of the word.  With a deeply pastoral heart.  Scott works relationally to get things done, he's not one to wait around for solutions to come to him.  He picks up the phone, works things out, thinks creatively.  He's no shrinking violet, and I am confident that he fought for the best outcome in my situation.  I cannot imagine living through that horrific time without him by my side.  I recommend him without hesitation.

Member of the Clergy, Diocese of Minnesota

In matters pertaining to Title IV, Scott Smith is who I turn to, because of his  integrity, faithfulness and knowledge of Canon law.

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Bonnie A. Perry

11th Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Michigan




6313 Loch Moor Drive
Minneapolis, MN 55439
Telephone: 612-987-6546
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