Heard: December 8, 2016.
action commenced in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county
of Suffolk on December 4, 2015.
case was reported by Lenk, J.
R. Marks, Assistant Attorney General, for the plaintiff.
Nicholas Poser (Thomas R. Kiley also present) for Thomas M.
Present: Gants, C.J., Botsford, Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, &
Budd, JJ. 
Speaker of the House Thomas Finneran pleaded guilty in the
United States District Court in 2007 to one count of
obstruction of justice in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1503.
The obstruction of justice conviction related to false
testimony that he had provided in relation to a Federal court
action challenging the 2001 redistricting act, St. 2001, c.
125 (redistricting act). Finneran had played a significant
role in the development of the redistricting act from the
point of its inception but denied under oath that he had
played any part in its development. Indeed, he testified that
he had not even seen the plan before it was released to the
full House of Representatives.
his conviction, Finneran was informed by the State Retirement
Board (board) that his crime constitutes a "violation of
the laws applicable to his office or position, "
pursuant to G. L. c. 32, § 15 (4), requiring the
forfeiture of his pension. Finneran appealed from the
board's determination to the Boston Municipal Court. A
Boston Municipal Court judge reversed, discerning no direct
link between Finneran's "conviction and his position
as a Member and/or Speaker of the House." We reach the
opposite conclusion, and accordingly reverse the decision of
the Boston Municipal Court judge and affirm the conclusion of
was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1978, as
the representative of the Twelfth Suffolk District.
Thereafter, he was reelected every two years, and
concurrently served as Speaker of the House from 1996 until
his resignation in 2004.
2001, Finneran played a key role in shepherding the
Commonwealth through the redistricting process pursuant to
the 2000 decennial United States census. The Legislature bore
the responsibility of revising the Commonwealth's
legislative districts to account for the change in population
reflected in the census. Toward that end, the Legislature
established a joint committee (committee) comprised of
members of the Senate and House of Representatives to put
together a redistricting plan. Finneran, as Speaker,
appointed the House members of the committee. He also took
part in the planning process and was consulted in regard to
"virtually all" of the difficult decisions
concerning the committee's redistricting plan.
week before the plan was released to the full House, Finneran
convened and attended a meeting concerning the redistricting
plan. At that meeting, he reviewed the proposed plan in
detail and suggested several changes to it that pertained to
his own district, at least some of which became part of the
final redistricting plan. In the days leading up to the
release of the plan, Finneran met with several of his fellow
House members and explained to them how it would affect their
districts. Shortly after the joint committee released the
redistricting plan to the full House, then Acting Governor
Jane Swift signed the redistricting act, enacting the plan
into law on November 8, 2001. The redistricting act, among
other things, increased the proportion of eligible white
voters in Finneran's House district.
June, 2002, a group of African-American and Latino voters
filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the
District of Massachusetts against Finneran, then Secretary of
the Commonwealth William Galvin, and Acting Governor Swift,
challenging the redistricting act as it
applied to House districts in the Boston area. They contended
that the House districts were redrawn with the purpose of
limiting the voting power of African-American and Latino
voters, in violation of the equal protection clause of the
Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution, and that the redistricting act had a
discriminatory effect against such voters in violation of the
Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973(b). In particular,
they argued that Finneran's Twelfth Suffolk District was
redrawn to decrease the number of minority voters in the
district and "super-pack" the neighboring Sixth
Suffolk District with African-American, Latino, and other
minority voters. In May, 2003, the plaintiffs filed an
amended complaint naming only Secretary Galvin as a
defendant. The case was tried before a three-judge panel
appointed by the Chief Judge of the United States Court of
Appeals for the First Circuit.
was deposed during the course of the lawsuit, and testified
voluntarily on behalf of the defense in November, 2003. The
plaintiffs cross-examined Finneran on, among other things,
the role he played in relation to the formation of the
redistricting act and, in particular, any effort he had
undertaken or role he had had in facilitating the changes
made to his House district. In his testimony, Finneran
conceded that he had engaged in communications with the House
members on the redistricting committee, but denied any
substantive knowledge of the redistricting plan prior to its
publication to the full House. When asked whether he had
reviewed "any of the redistricting plans as the process
proceeded, " Finneran responded, "Not as the
process proceeded. No sir." Finneran subsequently
falsely testified that he first saw the redistricting plan
after it was released to the full House.
February, 2004, the Federal District Court panel ruled for
the plaintiffs on the ground that the redistricting act had
resulted in a discriminatory impact on African-American
voters, in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Black
Political Task Force v. Galvin, 300
F.Supp.2d 291, 294 (D. Mass. 2004). The panel also stated in a
footnote that "[a]lthough Speaker Finneran denied any
involvement in the redistricting process, the circumstantial
evidence strongly suggests the opposite conclusion."
Id. at 295 n.3. One year later, in June, 2005, a
Federal grand jury indicted Finneran on three counts of
perjury and one count of obstruction of justice in relation
to his false deposition testimony. On January 5, 2007, Finneran
pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 1503, and received a sentence of eighteen
months of probation and a $25, 000 fine.
January, 2007, the board ceased payments of Finneran's
pension on the ground of his conviction, pursuant to G. L. c.
32, § 15 (4).  Following a hearing in April, 2012, the
hearing officer concluded that Finneran's pension is
forfeit under G. L. c. 32, § 15 (4), because he had
"been convicted of a criminal offense involving
violation of the laws applicable to his office or
position." The hearing officer's conclusion rested
on three primary grounds: (1) Finneran had testified in his
official capacity; (2) the "subject matter of his
testimony was . . . directly tied to his official
duties;" and (3) "Finneran's duties as a
legislator and the mandate of his oath [to uphold the
Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the
Commonwealth] . . . gave him a heightened obligation to be
forthcoming with the Court" given that the case
concerned the right to vote. The board subsequently voted to
accept the hearing officer's decision.
appealed to the Boston Municipal Court under G. L. c. 32,
§ 16 (3). A Boston Municipal Court judge reversed the
board's decision, concluding that Finneran's
conviction does not bear "a direct factual link to his
position as a House Member and/or Speaker" and that
"there is no substantial evidence to support the
[b]oard's conclusion that Finneran's conviction
violated a core function of his position as a House Member
and/or Speaker because there is no evidence in the record of
any code, rule or law applicable to Finneran's public
position that connects his conviction with his office."
The board filed a complaint in the nature of certiorari in
the county court, pursuant to G. L. c. 249, § 4,
asserting that the Boston Municipal Court judge had committed
an error of law in ruling that there is no "direct link
between the ...