Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State Board of Retirement v. Finneran

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

April 5, 2017

STATE BOARD OF RETIREMENT
v.
THOMAS M. FINNERAN & others. [1]

          Heard: December 8, 2016.

         Civil action commenced in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Suffolk on December 4, 2015.

         The case was reported by Lenk, J.

          David R. Marks, Assistant Attorney General, for the plaintiff.

          Nicholas Poser (Thomas R. Kiley also present) for Thomas M. Finneran.

          Present: Gants, C.J., Botsford, Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, & Budd, JJ. [2]

          LENK, J.

         Former 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.

         After 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 the board.

         1. Background.[3]

         Finneran 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.

         In 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.

         One 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.[4] The redistricting act, among other things, increased the proportion of eligible white voters in Finneran's House district.

         In 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, [5]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.

         Finneran 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.

         In 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).[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

         In January, 2007, the board ceased payments of Finneran's pension on the ground of his conviction, pursuant to G. L. c. 32, § 15 (4). [9] 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.

         Finneran 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.