Wind developers and their lawyers are brutal to anyone who consistently stands in their way. Annette Smith of Vermont is one who has fought with everything she has, and helped others have the courage to do the same. She doesn’t give up. Apparently she’s so good at helping that the wind developers and their lawyers need to ‘get rid of her’, and the only way they can think of is to drag out some ancient law that hasn’t been used in Vermont since the ’60’s for “practicing law without a license”. And it carries potentially severe penalties. “It is punished as criminal contempt of the Vermont Supreme Court, and is potentially punishable by fine or imprisonment or both, in the court’s discretion,” John Treadwell, Chief of the Criminal Division at the AG’s office says.
This is such a long stretch of an accusation that these lawyers have schemed up, yet Annette has to fight it, she doesn’t have a choice and it is going to cost her a pile just to defend herself. Think about any person in this wind fight that has given you guidance, direction, hope, skills, intelligent thought, and experience (I can think of more than a handful!). That’s the kind of person Annette is. Now imagine that person is getting prosecuted just because she helped you find your way around the messy world of tribunal hearings etc, that were created by legislators and lawyers to be as incomprehensible to the average person as possible.
There are broader implications of this sort of action that wind company lawyers hunger for too. It has the same effect on free speech and protest as a SLAPP suit. Those who need to fight for their homes will have nobody to turn for for help, unless they can afford lawyers that cost at least tens of thousands of dollars, usually hundreds of thousands. These people will not have a voice, and the wind companies can have smooth sailing. On top of this, those who have the experience and knowledge
will feel threatened to lend a hand to those who are desperate for some direction but can’t afford a lawyer – yes they are silenced too. The only people left to speak are the LAWYERS! Alarm bells! Does that sound a tad frightening to you too?!
AG’s Office Investigating Complaints Against Annette Smith, Anti-Wind Advocate
…The state attorney general’s office has opened an investigation into criminal complaints against a prominent champion of Vermonters who are adversely affected by renewable development. The attorney general’s office is investigating whether Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, has practiced law without a license — a charge with penalties left entirely to the court’s discretion.
Smith says the complaints that prompted the AG’s investigation are politically motivated. Attorneys who have argued against Smith’s clients say she gives bad advice, unconstrained by the sanctions licensed attorneys would incur for similar behaviour. Smith says the AG’s investigation “is very intimidating.” “I don’t know what to do. I think our work’s being shut down,” Smith said. “I believe this has the potential to shut down my organization of 16 years. It clearly falls under the definition of harassment.”
Residents who live near planned and existing renewable projects have claimed she’s their only advocate. Smith said she represents people who too frequently have nowhere else to turn. Renewable energy developers hire talented attorneys against whom landowners near project sites have no other way of successfully representing themselves. Many of these cases involve people who can’t afford a lawyer, and who didn’t want to become involved in legal proceedings to protect their interests, she said. Lawyers know it’s impossible to fight renewable energy developers, Smith said, and won’t take on affected landowners’ cases anyway. “Anybody who does this with a lawyer has wasted tens of thousands of dollars,” she said. “The reason I’m doing this is so people have a voice without bankrupting themselves.”
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Annette Smith has been fighting the power for more than 15 years, tenaciously opposing energy projects she believes harm the environment or quality of life in Vermont. Now she is the target of a criminal investigation into whether her efforts constitute unlicensed legal work — but her allies say her only offense is too often annoying a green power industry that boasts deep pockets.
“Even though this is a preposterous charge, and will likely be thrown out, its purpose will be fulfilled: to chill anyone’s free speech rights who dares to question the powerful in Montpelier,” attorney Deborah Bucknam wrote in an op-ed. Smith’s efforts to give towns and local groups greater say in large-scale renewable energy projects are meant to “help those who cannot afford the high priced lawyers the developers can,” wrote Bucknam, who has represented critics of a wind project in northeastern Vermont.
Smith, 59, uses a small solar installation to power her home in Danby, where she milks a cow by hand and defies Vermont winters by growing citrus — limes and grapefruit — in a greenhouse. But she has been an outspoken critic of what she sees as the negative effects of large-scale wind and solar projects: wildlife deaths and noise pollution from wind turbines, visual blight from sprawling solar arrays. She won’t comment on the specifics of the allegations — “Anything I say can be used against me,” she said — but called the investigation “a government-sponsored SLAPP suit,” using an acronym meaning “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” Read article