Maine board denies law license sought by F. Lee Bailey

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YARMOUTH — F. Lee Bailey, a longtime attorney who has represented many high-profile clients, including O.J. Simpson and Patty Hearst, was denied a bid to practice law in Maine.

Bailey’s partner, Deborah Elliot of Yarmouth, on Wednesday said Bailey is appealing the ruling. She referred further questions about the case to Bailey’s attorney, Peter DeTroy.

Detroy did not immediately return a phone call.

Bailey, 79, passed the Maine Bar Examination in February. He was previously licensed in Massachusetts and Florida, but was disbarred in both of those states in the early 2000s after a Florida Supreme Court ruling on seven counts of attorney misconduct stemming from his handling of a case involving an accused marijuana dealer.

Bailey spent 44 days in federal prison before he was released after repaying millions of dollars worth of stock in a pharmaceutical company he had transferred from his former client’s assets.

“Mr. Bailey has not met his burden of demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that he possesses the requisite good character and fitness necessary for admission to the Maine Bar,” the Maine Board of Bar Examiners concluded in a 22-page decision signed by five members of the nine-member board in November.

Four other members of the board issued a minority opinion in a seven-page dissent.

In it, they said that Bailey had demonstrated “by clear and convincing evidence that he has the moral qualifications, competency and learning in the law and has otherwise satisfied the factors established by the Maine Bar.”

The majority members pointed to several factors that guided their decision, including the disbarments, recurring income tax questions and Bailey’s uncertain residency status.

Bailey appeared before the Board of Bar Examiners on Oct. 31 to “resolve doubt regarding (his) good character and fitness to practice law in light of the past disbarments,” the majority members wrote.

At that hearing, Bailey presented several witnesses who testified on his behalf, including Elliott.

He also offered to be supervised by Portland attorney Stephen J. Schwartz, who had agreed to confer monthly with Bailey regarding case management and clients’ funds.

According to the board’s written report, Kenneth Fishman, an associate justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court who had worked with Bailey as a law partner and continues their friendship, said the case resulting in Bailey’s disbarment was an “aberration” and that “Bailey’s demeanor since (the case) is now less arrogant and ‘far more humble’ than before.”

Bailey also submitted affidavits and letters that spoke to his good character, including one from former Maine Gov. John Baldacci.

The majority report cited a Maine Bar rule that says it treats a lawyer who has been disbarred in any other state “as if the attorney has been disbarred also in Maine.”

One of the six factors the board is required to consider in determining whether an applicant should be readmitted to the bar is whether “the petitioner recognizes the wrongfulness and seriousness of the misconduct.”

The majority of the board concluded that Bailey had not recognized the wrongfulness of his past conduct.

“Rather than accepting that he was disbarred because of his own misconduct, Bailey continues to place blame elsewhere,” the majority wrote, noting that the testimony in support of Bailey was insufficient. “(The testimony) cannot overcome Bailey’s own conduct before this Board, including the number and type of omissions, the clear intentionality in either omitting or providing confusing information, and Bailey’s word-smithing and hair-splitting rather than admitting mistakes. Accordingly, Bailey failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he possesses the requisite honesty and integrity to practice law in the State of Maine. “

Board members also wrote that Bailey was “less than forthright” with the board throughout the admissions process.

Will Graff of The Forecaster contributed to this report.