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October 22, 2008

Finneran could resume legal work

Former House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran should be able to resume practicing law in January, according to a decision issued Monday by a three-member panel of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers.

Finneran, who is now a talk-show host on WRKO-AM, was suspended from the practice of law in January 2007 after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice charges for lying in court about his role in crafting a 2002 redistricting plan on Beacon Hill. After his conviction, Finneran was placed on 18 months of unsupervised probation and received a fine of $25,000. He resigned his job as president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council.

Finneranfall2002
Tom Finneran as
Speaker in 2002.
Photo by Peter
Urban.

Constance Vecchione, the bar counsel for the Board of Bar Overseers, recommended the former speaker be disbarred and not allowed to practice law again. Finneran had sought a one-year suspension of his license to practice law.

The three-member panel said Finneran's license to practice law should be suspended for two years, which would allow him to resume practicing law in January subject to a reinstatement hearing.

The panel said there were numerous mitigating circumstances that argued for a lesser punishment. For example, the panel said Finneran had accepted personal responsibilty for his offense and was distracted at the time of his court testimony by his own severe hip pain and concerns about his wife, who was undergoing knee surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"These were factors that diminished his ability to focus on that testimony and impaired his judgment," the panel wrote in its decision.

The three-member panel wrote there was no evidence to support Vecchione's conclusion that Finneran "was racially biased or racially insensitive in his public life." The panel also said a lesser punishment was warranted because Finneran did not commit his crime while acting as a lawyer or while trying to conceal a crime or seek personal gain.

The recommendation of the three-member panel now goes to the full Board of Bar Overseers for action. Once the full board makes its recommendation, it goes to the Supreme Judicial Court for action.

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Comments

Let’s start here: "Finneran... was suspended from the practice of law... after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice charges for lying in court.

Tell me why his hip pain, his wife’s health or any other of the cited circumstance mitigates the self-acknowledged fact that he lied in a court of law, under oath, for the purpose to deceive and avoid consequence.

He lied as a witness, as a party to the matter being adjudicated, as an officer of the court, and with intent to deceive and avoid consequence of a "responsible" finding.

The Supreme Judicial Court must reject the recommendation of the three-member panel and disbar Finneran.

Lawyers are officers of the court. A lawyer cannot be permitted to knowingly and intentionally lie and obstruct justice in the court of law. If they do, they forfeit their license. Justice in America and here in our Commonwealth, cannot afford to lower its standard.

A smart and principled US Attorney in Chicago recently said "Truth is the engine of the justice system." Finneran did not tell the truth. He obstructed justice with his untruth. All of the other elements under consideration are immaterial to his obligations as an attorney, an officer of the court, and as a citizen.

Just a little lie, a small obstruction of justice? The case had to do with redistricting, so the effect of the redistricting has ongoing consequences in our elections.

Whoever thought is was a good idea to have lawyers police lawyers? The MA Bar's disciplinary process has lost some credibility.

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