Seton Hall Law Alum Makes History As Chief U.S. Probation Officer for the District of New Jersey
In November 2018, Susan Smalley ’18 was named Chief U.S. Probation Officer for the District of New Jersey – the first woman in New Jersey to hold the position, and the first Asian-American woman to hold such a position in the country. Capping a 26-year career in federal service, the promotion is especially impressive since Smalley earned her law degree later in life, beginning her J.D. studies in 2014 once her children were teenagers.
Smalley received much encouragement along the way, most especially from the Honorable Katharine S. Hayden ’75, United States District Judge for the District of New Jersey, and the Honorable Jose L. Linares, Chief United States District Judge for the District of New Jersey, with whom she works closely.
“I stayed steady throughout my career and advanced when I could,” Smalley says. “I always thought about law school, but continually put it off. Once I started, working full-time during the day and attending classes in the evenings proved even more demanding than I expected. But if law wasn’t so interesting to me, I couldn’t have done it for four years.”
As Chief Probation Officer, she couples the investigative skills she gained on-the-job and the legal skills she learned in the classroom. “We, as probation officers, serve the court by providing an objective perspective. Law school helped broaden that view for me,” Smalley explains. “I better understand the roles of all the players in the criminal justice system – from defendants to defense attorneys to prosecutors.”
Earning her J.D. aided her in pursuing many opportunities, including her new position. But Smalley stresses the need for old-fashioned hard work: if a woman nearly 50, with a demanding full-time federal job, and college-aged children, can pursue both a second degree and a higher-level job, then anything is possible.
“Anyone can do it if you apply yourself,” Smalley says simply. “It’s never too late to pursue your passion.” “I am elated to work alongside fellow alums such as Judge Madeline Cox Arleo '89, Judge John Michael Vasquez '96, the Honorable Michael Chagares ’87, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; and Linda Foster ’95, Assistant Federal Public Defender. I have a confidence that helps me do my job better and much of that confidence came from studying at Seton Hall Law.”