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University of Arizona lawyer taking post with Smithsonian

Citizen Staff Writer



The Smithsonian Institution has named the University of Arizona vice president of legal affairs to serve as the institution’s new chief lawyer.

Judith E. Leonard will take over as general counsel for the world’s largest museum and research complex on June 1, a job she said “was too good to pass up.”

Leonard, who has been at UA since 1998, visited the Smithsonian many times growing up and has a picture of herself in front of one of the many life-sized skeletons housed in the institution.

Now, she’ll be surrounded by the museum’s treasures daily as she manages the activities of her office, including supervising 17 lawyers, representing the institution in administrative proceedings and coordinating litigation with the Department of Justice.

“I’ve been here for 10 years and I hadn’t decided to leave the university, but this opportunity presented itself and it was too good to pass up,” said Leonard, who supervises a staff of nine lawyers and eight support staff at UA.

“The Smithsonian is a remarkable place with an amazing history, a vast array of areas and many talented people,” she continued. “Most of my legal career has been committed to education and this is another amazing research institution.”

The Smithsonian, founded in 1846, has 19 museums and galleries, nine research facilities and the National Zoological Park. About 500 scientists are included among the 6,000 Smithsonian employees, and the total number of objects, works of art and specimens at the museum is estimated at 137 million.

Leonard said UA President Robert N. Shelton was “very supportive” of her decision to take the Smithsonian position.

“He’s a remarkable president and wanted me to do what was best for me, although he also didn’t want me to leave,” said Leonard, who has also been an adjunct associate professor in UA’s College of Education since 2000.

Shelton could not be reached for comment.

Before coming to UA, Leonard served as a staff attorney at the U.S. Department of Education, as an assistant attorney general in the office of the Arizona Attorney General and as associate university counsel at the University of North Carolina.

Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough announced Leonard’s appointment Monday, saying she will replace John Huerta, who retired in September.

The salary for the Smithsonian’s general counsel position is being reduced to $170,000 from $240,000 under compensation reforms to align with the government pay scale.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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