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Maine puts Bailey law license on hold

State bar appeals high court ruling

F. Lee Bailey, left, in 1995 with defendant O.J. Simpson and Johnnie Cochran Jr. as Simpson was found not guilty.

Myung J. Chun/AP, file

F. Lee Bailey, left, in 1995 with defendant O.J. Simpson and Johnnie Cochran Jr. as Simpson was found not guilty.

PORTLAND, Maine — Celebrity attorney F. Lee Bailey is going to have to wait a few months to find out if he can practice law in Maine, where he hopes to restart his legal career.

The Board of Bar Examiners has appealed a Maine Supreme Judicial Court justice’s decision allowing Bailey to set up a law practice, meaning there will be additional court filings and a hearing that could carry the process into the fall.

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Bailey, 80, said he hopes to eventually resume trial work, as he had throughout a legal career that included high-profile clients like O.J. Simpson.

He said he had all but abandoned the idea of working as a lawyer after being disbarred in Florida and Massachusetts and becoming disillusioned with the profession. But he liked what he saw in Maine.

‘‘I got up to Maine and got a look at the lawyers and judges here, and found a completely different atmosphere. I thought this might be a good place to practice, so I’d give a try,’’ said Bailey, who moved to Maine in 2010 and lives 10 miles north of Portland.

He ran into trouble over the handling of $6 million worth of stock for a client and was disbarred in 2001 in Florida, followed by Massachusetts.

In Maine, Supreme Judicial Court Justice Donald Alexander cleared the way last month for Bailey to practice law, saying his ongoing tax litigation should not stand in the way of his being admitted to the bar. But the Board of Bar Examiners filed an appeal little more than a week ago, meaning the entire court, minus Alexander, will have to weigh in.

The Board of Bar Examiners questioned Alexander’s finding that Bailey proved ‘‘good character and fitness’’ along with ‘‘requisite honor and integrity’’ to practice law.

Peter DeTroy, Bailey’s lawyer, said Bailey wants to practice law because he believes he still has something to offer, both as a practicing attorney and as an adviser to others.

Both hope that the appeal can be expedited since there is little dispute about the facts. As it stands, the process will probably continue until at least the fall, and possibly into the new year, DeTroy said.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Knowlton, who is representing the Bar Examiners, declined to comment beyond the appeal, filed on June 20.

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