September 23rd, 2011 2:23 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: City Hall, Politics, Cops and Courts

State Bar Suspended Jefferson Smith Three Times for Failure to Pay Dues

murmurs-jeffersonsmith_3744Jefferson Smith

Rep. Jefferson Smith (D-East Portland) has had a tough time since entering the mayoral race Sept. 13. The Oregonian reported that Smith's driving record is a mess and he rarely voted before co-founding the Oregon Bus Project. More recently, blogger Jack Bogdanski has attempted to sort out the Bus Project's finances.

A check of Oregon State Bar records also shows that Smith, a lawyer, has been suspended by the bar three times since 2004 for failing to pay his dues on time.

Here's what happened, according to Bar spokeswoman Karla Houtary:

Mr. Smith received an administrative suspension on July 2, 2004 for failing to pay bar dues. He was reinstated the same day. He transferred to inactive status on January 6, 2006. Another administrative suspension for failure to pay bar dues was implemented on July 2, 2010. He was reinstated on Oct. 14, 2010. A third administrative suspension for failure to pay bar dues was implemented on July 5, 2011. He was reinstated on July 13, 2011.

A little context is in order. Smith, a 1999 Harvard Law graduate whose Wikipedia page says he graduated in the top five percent of his class, passed the Oregon bar in 2001. Smith worked at Stoel Rives, the city's largest law firm, for a couple of years but soon turned his attention to the Bus Project.

As Houtary notes, Smith changed his bar status to "inactive" in 2006. But even on inactive status, bar rules require lawyers to pay dues of between $110 and $160 per year. Smith made those payments late, resulting in suspension.

(As WW recently reported, another lawyer turned politico, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian also got suspended for failure to pay his bar dues. Avakian is currently running to fill the vacant congressional seat of former U.S. Rep. David Wu.)

Smith says the bar dues simply escaped his attention. "I wasn’t practicing law and wasn’t focused on being a lawyer," he says.

WW asked Smith whether his inattention to detail—as evidenced by his numerous driving infractions, voting record and bar suspensions—should concern Portland voters. Smith acknowledges he faces challenges.

"It’s a matter of public record that I've been diagnosed with ADHD," Smith says. "It’s a weakness I fight. I do better sometimes, and this time I did it worse."

Smith says, however, that his other strengths outweigh his challenges.

"I think it is important for voters to understand that there are some everything day things that other people do well that I do badly," he says. "Other things I do really well. Building teams to accomplish goals is something I do really well."

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