By Associated Press - Sunday, January 29, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A Hope, Arkansas, native is to become the first black chief judge of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Judge Lavenski Smith, now of Little Rock, is to become chief judge of the St. Louis-based on March 11. He succeeds Judge William Jay Riley, whose seven-year term as chief judge is expiring.

The 58-year-old Smith was appointed in 2001 by then-President George W. Bush to the court that hears appeals from Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.

Smith was in Washington last week for orientation and told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ( ) that he met with people ranging from information technologists to budgeting.

Court clerk Michael Gans said the position is routinely passed on to the next most-senior judge on the court who is 65 or younger.

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