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Mass. High Court Disbars Former Speaker Finneran

This article is more than 10 years old.

The highest court in Massachusetts on Monday disbarred former House Speaker Thomas Finneran for his conviction on a federal obstruction of justice charge.

Finneran pleaded guilty in 2007 to giving false testimony in a 2003 lawsuit over a legislative redistricting plan that diluted the clout of minority voters. He was sentenced to 18 months of unsupervised probation and a $25,000 fine.

The state Board of Bar Overseers recommended in March that Finneran should lose his law license for his conviction. Finneran's lawyer proposed a two-year suspension of his license instead, arguing that the conviction did not occur during the practice of law.

The Supreme Judicial Court backed the board's recommendation, saying in its ruling that his conduct "implicates both the integrity of the judicial system and the honesty of a member of the bar."

The justices conceded that Finneran was not seeking to cover up a crime nor was he motivated by financial gain when he gave the false statements, and they said his behavior was an aberration of an otherwise long career in which he served the public with "loyalty and distinction."

But the court said the crime was so serious as to warrant disbarment.

Finneran is now a radio talk show host. Messages left with him at WRKO-AM and his Boston home were not immediately returned. A message left with Finneran's attorney, Arnold Rosenfeld, was also not immediately returned.

Michael Fredrickson, general counsel for the Board of Bar Overseers, declined to comment on the specifics of the ruling.

"The court's opinion speaks for itself," he said.

Finneran - a Democrat once so powerful he was dubbed "King Tom" - served 26 years the House before becoming speaker in 1996. He resigned amid a federal investigation 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.

This program aired on January 11, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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