Former Tribal Judge Disbarred By Wyoming Supreme Court After Drug Charge Plea

in News/Wyoming Supreme Court

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A former tribal judge for the Wind River Indian Reservation has been disbarred from practicing law by the Wyoming Supreme Court after pleading guilty to drug distribution charges.

The court on Wednesday disbarred Terri Virginia Smith, following the recommendation of the state’s Board of Professional Responsibility, which serves as the hearing body for disciplinary actions involving attorneys.

Smith served as the judge for the Wind River Tribal Court from 2017 until May 2019. While serving as the judge in March 2019, she was the subject of a federal indictment that alleged she conspired to deliver Oxycodone and engaged in the distribution of cocaine, both felonies.

An investigation by a federal probation officer said there was no evidence that Smith used her position as a judge to “facilitate the commission or concealment of the offense.”

Smith stepped down as the tribal judge and stopped practicing law in May 2019 and pleaded guilty to the charges in August 2019.

She was sentenced in October 2020 to six months in prison and six months of home confinement, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

The BPR’s report on Smith’s disbarment noted that her sentence was “a significant downward departure” from federal sentencing guidelines due to her cooperation with law enforcement investigators and her willingness to undergo treatment for substance abuse.

Smith’s cooperation was “critical” to securing other drug charges and arrests, the BPR’s report said, calling her decision to work with authorities a mitigating factor in her sentencing and the BPR’s own disciplinary hearing.

“The many persons who face charges or have been convicted as a result of (Smith’s) cooperation and assistance to the government have friends and families all over the reservation,” the report said. “Families are inter-related. Loyalties run deep. The parties agree that (Smith’s) cooperation with prosecutors in the face of such a threat merits consideration as a mitigating factor in this disciplinary hearing as it did in her criminal sentencing.”

Under Wyoming law, Smith can seek reinstatement to practice law five years after her official disbarment date, which was set as May 24, 2019.

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