An Ellsworth lawyer with a controversial history in New York City has been suspended indefinitely from practicing law in Maine after being charged with several crimes.
Scott L. Fenstermaker was charged last fall in Washington County with trespassing, assault, reckless conduct and attempted theft. The charges stem from a Sept. 28 incident when an argument broke out as he was trying to get an Addison towing company owner to release his client’s car from the impound lot. The charges against Fenstermaker are still pending.
Fenstermaker’s case is a rare example of a defense lawyer facing criminal charges for alleged activities that he claims were simply an attempt to represent the best interests of his client.
In the suspension order, written and signed by Justice Thomas McKeon, the judge supported the recommendation of the Maine Overseers of the Bar, which oversees the conduct of licensed lawyers in Maine.
“Fenstermaker’s conduct serves as an imminent threat to clients, the public and to the administration of justice,” McKeon wrote in the suspension order, which was signed March 17.
The order is to remain in effect until further order by the state supreme court.
McKeon said Fenstermaker must immediately cease all contact with clients or potential clients, stop practicing law, vacate his offices, and take down all websites or social media accounts and other forms of advertising. The judge appointed Ellsworth lawyer Barry Mills to assume responsibility for all aspects of Fenstermaker’s law practice, including representing his clients, while Fenstermaker serves his suspension.
Fenstermaker said Wednesday his suspension “was politically-motivated and is illegal under state, federal and international law.” He said Maine’s legal community is unaccustomed to his style of legal representation but that he has not violated any professional codes of conduct or laws in legally defending his clients.
“I think it is an effort to stop my course of conduct as a lawyer since I was admitted to the Maine Bar,” Fenstermaker said.
Fenstermaker said he plans to contest the order in federal court. He said that he is in the process of handing at least some of his casework over to Mills, but that he is worried that if he fully complies with the order it will violate his ethical obligations he still has to his clients in New York and that it will strip him of his ability to contest the order.
“I’m going to ask for a delay,” he said.
Among the cases that Fenstermaker is required to hand over to Mills is a class action lawsuit he filed last month in federal court in Bangor.
Fenstermaker filed the lawsuit on behalf of car owners who have had their vehicles impounded during traffic stops, claiming the seizures violate state and federal constitutions. Named as defendants in the case are the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Hancock and Washington counties, the municipalities of Ellsworth and Dexter, and three towing companies.
Robert Granger, the district attorney for Washington County, declined Wednesday to comment on either the criminal case against Fenstermaker or on his suspension by the Maine Overseers of the Bar.
During his 30-year career as a lawyer in New York City, where he lived prior to moving to Ellsworth in 2020, Fenstermaker was a prosecutor and represented detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
He represented defendants charged in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, including Ammar al-Baluchi, an alleged courier for Osama bin Laden, and Mustafa bin-Ahmed al-Hawsawi, who allegedly helped fund the attacks.
Fenstermaker has also represented Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian who is alleged to be the mastermind behind the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen in 2000, among other high-profile criminal cases.
While living in New York, Fenstermaker ran in 2016 for a seat in Congress but received less than 1 percent of the vote, according to Politico.