PORTLAND — Famed defense attorney F. Lee Bailey, who was denied a license late last year to practice law in Maine, may practice here yet under a recent finding by a state Supreme Judicial Court judge.
In his career, Bailey, now 79, has represented celebrity clients such as O.J. Simpson and newspaper heiress-turned-bank robber Patty Hearst before being disbarred in Florida in 2001 and in Massachusetts in 2003 for his handling of millions of dollars worth of stock that had belonged to one of his clients in the mid-1990s.
Bailey since moved to Yarmouth in 2010 and sought to return to practicing law. He passed the state bar exam but was denied admission by the Board of Bar Examiners in November in a 5-4 decision, saying he had not demonstrated “by clear and convincing evidence that he possesses the requisite good character and fitness necessary for admission to the Maine bar.”
Bailey petitioned to the state Supreme Judicial Court and Justice Donald Alexander held a two-day hearing in March to review Bailey’s past, his character and his bar application.
Alexander found in a 57-page ruling filed on April 19 that Bailey was almost fit to practice law, except for an outstanding tax debt of nearly $2 million.
“The existence of large debts can compromise professional judgment and client relations in ways that must be recognized in considering admission applications,” Alexander wrote. “The issue remaining unaddressed is the only bar to this Court’s granting Bailey a certificate of good character and fitness to be admitted to the practice of law.”
Alexander gave Bailey and the state until May 6 to file additional material for his consideration on Bailey’s tax debt.
Bailey’s attorney, Peter DeTroy, said the judge’s finding was favorable to Bailey, leaving him “standing on the one-foot line” in a football analogy.