Things have been a little sleepy in terms of big decisions from the First Circuit and Law Court, so I thought we'd chat about a decision by a Single Justice of the SJC that's gotten some press, reviewing a denial of the Maine Board of Bar Examiners to admit F. Lee Bailey, previously disbarred elsewhere.
A copy of the 57-page decision opinion can be found at http://www.courts.state.me.us/opinions_orders/supreme/bar_decisions/2013/bar-12-14_bailey_order.pdf. A copy of the closing arguments from both sides is attached. ( Download Plaintiff, Download Board)
Basically, Justice Alexander found that the issues discussed in the first 35 pages of the decision didn't mean that Bailey hadn't met the good character and fitness requirement by a clear and convincing standard, given the Court's previous decision in In re Hughes, 594 A.2d 1098 (Me. 1991). The one sticking point the Single Justice found to Bailey's admission was an outstanding $2 million tax bill. That had to be cleaned up, the decision said, because "large financial obligations may cloud one's judgment as to what is in the best interest of the client and what is the best practice for compliance with professional and ethical obligations. Thus, large debts are a cause for fitness concerns in bar and prudence."
Interestingly, setting aside whether the other identified issues rejected by the Single Justice were of sufficient concern to withhold admission applying a clear and convincing standard, the blogosphere has focused on the ground on which admission was (at this point until cleaning up) denied, and the language I quoted above that accompanies it.
Jeepers, these folks writing on the ABA cite and elsewhere commented, if large outstanding financial obligations are a basis to preclude admission, then wouldn't that reasoning apply to many, if not most law school graduates today with big school loans and debts?