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June 4, 2021

F. Lee Bailey, 87, well-known trial lawyer with a Maine connection, dies

F. Lee Bailey, an attorney who had been disbarred in two states and had gained widespread notice while representing heiress Patty Hearst and former NFL star O.J. Simpson, died Thursday. 

Courtesy / F. Lee Bailey Consulting
F. Lee Bailey

Bailey, who was 87, had a law career that spanned more than six decades, but more recently maintained F. Lee Bailey Consulting at 325 Main St. in Yarmouth. His office was above his girlfriend’s hair salon, although the “shingle” no longer hangs outside the building. He also had a home in Yarmouth. 

Bailey died Thursday in Atlanta, where he’d been in hospice care and moved to be near a son, according to various news accounts.

The Washington Post called him “the defense lawyer for the famous and the infamous.” 

“Mr. Bailey flew warplanes, sailed yachts, dropped out of Harvard, wrote books, touted himself on television, was profiled in countless newspapers, ran a detective agency, married four times, carried a gun, took on seemingly hopeless cases and courted trouble, once going to jail for six weeks and finally being disbarred,” Robert D. McFadden wrote in Bailey’s obituary in Friday's New York Times. “To a generation of Americans who grew up with courtroom dramas on television, he was the stuff of celebrity legends: an audacious, larger-than-life defender…”

He made a name for himself defending the Boston Strangler, Albert Desalvo, and kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst, who had been involved in a bank robbery while in captivity.

But he may be best known for being part of the so-called legal dream team that defended former NFL star O.J. Simpson, who had been accused of murdering his former wife, Nicole Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. The legal team included Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., Alan M. Dershowitz, Barry Scheck and Robert L. Shapiro. The trial riveted the nation for months and eventually resulted in Simpson’s acquittal in October 1995. 

Bailey was not afraid to take on hard cases, but he also ran afoul of bar associations in Florida and Massachusetts, getting disbarred in both states. 

In 2013, he sought to practice law in Maine, where he had a home. The request was denied and that’s why his practice here was known as F. Lee Bailey Consulting. The firm’s website says Bailey offered guidance in investigation, trial prep, polygraph consulting, aviation and marine issues.

In 2016, he filed for bankruptcy in Maine, citing more than $5.2 million in debts, including a mortgage of $365,000 on a condo in Yarmouth, according to news accounts.

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