Since late summer the Teton County Democratic Party has been asking if the county deputy prosecuting attorney, Bailey Smith, now a candidate for county prosecutor, has held her title falsely because she was not admitted to the Idaho State Bar until Sept. but was hired by the county in July.
As a New York-licensed attorney, Smith submitted her application for the Idaho State Bar when she was hired to work for Teton County. A reciprocal bar license requires paperwork collection and transmission between states, which in Smith’s case meant between New York and Idaho, during the coronavirus pandemic.
Smith received admission to the bar on Sept. 16. She appears in the system under her married surname.
According to Idaho state statute, the deputy prosecuting attorney needs to have the same qualifications as the prosecuting attorney, including being licensed in Idaho. However, according to the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct, the text that governs Idaho attorneys and was adopted by the Idaho Supreme Court rather than the Idaho State Legislature, an attorney who is licensed in another state can work under the supervision of an Idaho attorney.
“A lawyer admitted to practice in another jurisdiction, but not in this jurisdiction, does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law in this jurisdiction when the lawyer is associated in the matter with a lawyer admitted to practice in this jurisdiction who actively participates in the representation,” reads the text.
Brad Andrews, the general counsel for the Idaho State Bar, told the Teton Valley News that he had no way of knowing whether wrong-doing had occurred in the prosecutor’s office unless he investigated the matter himself. That would only happen if someone were to submit a formal complaint to the bar, which has not happened. He said the decision would depend on whether the attorney in question had actually practiced law without authorization.
Smith and her supervisor, prosecutor Billie Siddoway, have told the TVN that they cannot comment on the question because it would “constitute an improper legal opinion” in case the county became involved in litigation on the matter.
Representatives of the local Democratic party as well as Smith’s campaign manager have accused the TVN of bias in coverage because of letters published on the opinion page. The TVN acknowledges this is a contentious issue with conflicting explanations of the law and appreciates the community’s concern but the paper will not cover it further unless actual litigation occurs.