(CN) - Massachusetts' former Speaker of the House was disbarred after pleading guilty to federal charges of obstruction of justice.
Thomas Finneran represented a Boston neighborhood in the state house for 26 years. He served as Speaker from 1996 to 2005.
He testified during a trial on the constitutionality of the 2001 Redistricting Act, which was ultimately determined to discriminate against minority voters.
Finneran claimed that he did not see the redistricting plan while it was formed. However, the trial court's three-judge panel ruled:
"Although Speaker Finneran denied any involvement in the redistricting process, the circumstantial evidence strongly suggests the opposite conclusion."
Finneran was charged with three counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. Finneran and the government reached a plea agreement that resulted in him pleading guilty to the obstruction charge.
A discipline hearing followed, and the panel recommended a two-year suspension instead of disbarment. The panel took into account Finneran's hip pain and concern for his wife's health on the day he testified. The panel also considered Finneran's record of charity and community service, which includes work with the Dorchester YMCA and the Pop Warner football league in Mattapan.
But the Board of Bar Overseers did not heed that advice and recommended that Finneran be disbarred, which is what the Massachusetts Supreme Court did, ruling that Finneran's penalty should not be reduced on the basis that he was not acting as an attorney when he made the comments.
"Crimes involving interference with the administration of justice generally do not qualify for a lesser sanction on the ground that the lawyer was not representing a client or directly engaged in the practice of law at the relevant time," Justice Margot Botsford wrote.
"We have no reason to disagree with the finding that the respondent's conduct during the voting rights lawsuit represented an aberrant event in his long career of serving his constituency and the public with loyalty and distinction," she added. "But the respondent was convicted of a serious crime involving false testimony to a court under oath in a significant case about fundamental rights."
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.