In Vermont, thorn in side of powerful faces criminal probe

A longtime critic of the way sites for large-scale renewable energy projects are picked in Vermont is the target of an investigation into whether she's been operating as a lawyer without a license.

Annette Smith frequently consults with residents and towns who appear before a regulatory board in opposition of these projects.

Smith says she's never held herself out to be a lawyer. She won't comment on the specifics of the allegations but says they're meant to silence public participation.

Unlicensed legal work is neither a misdemeanor nor a felony under Vermont law, but is in a special class of contempt.

A Smith ally, attorney Deborah Bucknam, of St. Johnsbury, says Smith's main offense is too often annoying renewable power developers.