A disciplinary board last Friday said former Massachusetts House Speaker Thomas Finneran should be disbarred for his conviction on a federal obstruction of justice charge.
Finneran’s law license has been suspended since January 2007, when he pleaded guilty to lying about his role in a redistricting plan that diluted the clout of minority voters.
The 12-member state Board of Bar Overseers voted March 9 to recommend that Finneran lose his law license, making its decision public on Friday. The state Supreme Judicial Court will have the final say on how Finneran is disciplined.
A three-member panel of the board had recommended a two-year suspension. But the Office of the Bar Counsel, which prosecutes attorney misconduct cases, recommended disbarment. Finneran asked for a one-year suspension.
In its written ruling, the board said disbarment is the presumptive discipline for a lawyer who has been convicted of a felony, particularly one involving dishonesty. The panel rejected Finneran’s arguments that his long and distinguished public career and other mitigating factors warrant a lesser punishment.
“The public is entitled to expect as much from the bar’s most prominent members as from its most ordinary,” the ruling said.
Finneran — a Democrat once so powerful he was dubbed “King Tom” — served 26 years in the House before becoming speaker in 1996. He resigned under a cloud in 2004, the year before he was indicted.
The charges against Finneran stemmed from false testimony he gave in a voting rights lawsuit that claimed new legislative district boundaries discriminated against blacks and other minority voters in Boston while protecting incumbents, including himself.
He testified that he had no role in developing the new legislative map.
When he pleaded guilty to the obstruction charge, Finneran said he lied because he was proud to represent a largely minority district and was offended by the lawsuit’s claims of racial bias.
He was sentenced to 18 months of unsupervised probation and a $25,000 fine.
Calls to Finneran’s home and WRKO-AM, where he works as a talk show host, were not immediately returned.
Finneran’s lawyer, Arnold Rosenfeld, said the recommendation will automatically go the Supreme Judicial Court, where the case will have a hearing.
“We’re disappointed with the result,” Rosenfeld said.
Thomas Finneran will resign from his $416,000-a-year job as president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. The decision comes after the former House Speaker pleaded guilty to obstructing justice during a redistricting lawsuit that has already cost him a $25,000 fine, 18 months of unsupervised probation and the possible suspension or loss of his law license. More »
"Tom Finneran was once arguably the most powerful politician in all of Massachusetts," the Banner wrote in its Jan. 18, 2007, editorial. "Now, after deciding to plead guilty to a federal obstruction of justice charge in order to avoid imprisonment, his reputation has fallen precipitously. Today, the former Speaker of the state House of Representatives is a convicted felon. More »