385 Mass. 48 (1982), Matter of Gordon

Citation:385 Mass. 48, 429 N.E.2d 1150
Party Name:In the Matter of Richard K. GORDON.
Case Date:January 13, 1982
Court:Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts

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385 Mass. 48 (1982)

429 N.E.2d 1150

In the Matter of Richard K. GORDON.

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk.

January 13, 1982

Argued May 6, 1981.

[429 N.E.2d 1151] Jerry Cohen, Waltham (Mary Haskell, Boston, with him) for petitioner.

Barry Brown, Sp. Asst. Bar Counsel, Boston, for Bd. of Bar Overseers.


[429 N.E.2d 1152] HENNESSEY, Chief Justice.

The petitioner (Gordon), who was disbarred in 1965, seeks reinstatement to the Bar of the Commonwealth. The Board of Bar Overseers (Board) recommends his reinstatement. Bar Counsel opposes it. We conclude that Gordon should not be reinstated.

This is Gordon's second petition for reinstatement. He was disbarred on March 25, 1965, as a result of his convictions on charges of larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny, in connection with the prosecution of crimes arising out of the construction of the Boston Common underground garage. That case, which resulted in the conviction of Gordon and others, concerned highly publicized larcenies and

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corruption relating to public funds. See Commonwealth v. Kiernan, 348 Mass. 29, 201 N.E.2d 504 (1964), cert. denied sub nom. Gordon v. Massachusetts, 380 U.S. 913, 85 S.Ct. 901, 13 L.Ed.2d 800 (1965). Gordon filed his first petition for reinstatement on September 13, 1976. After that petition for reinstatement was referred to the Board, the Board held three days of hearings and heard extensive testimony. In February, 1978, it issued its findings and its recommendation that the petition be denied.

The Board's recommendation as to the first petition was based on its conclusion that Gordon had failed to show that his resumption of the practice of law at that time would not undermine public confidence in the administration of justice or bring disrepute to the bar. The Board believed that because Gordon was a judge at the time he committed the crimes for which he was convicted, he must satisfy a higher standard than other disbarred lawyers who seek reinstatement. Thus, although it found that Gordon had the moral qualifications necessary for the practice of law, the Board feared, in light of his former judgeship, the seriousness of the crimes for which he was convicted, and the considerable publicity that the conspiracy in which he played a part had generated, that his reinstatement would diminish public confidence in the courts and the bar.

The Board's findings and recommendations were referred to a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court. After hearing and arguments, the single justice denied the first petition on July 19, 1978, without prejudice to a future application. The single justice accepted the Board's conclusion that Gordon had not sustained his burden of proof with respect to the effect of his reinstatement upon the bar and the public interest. In his memorandum the single justice noted the unfavorable recommendations submitted on behalf of the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Attorney General.

On November 29, 1978, Gordon filed the present petition in this court. By letter dated December 19, 1978, the court referred the petition to the Board to conduct an investigation and submit its recommendation to the court. The

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Board referred the petition, whose allowance was opposed by Bar Counsel, to a panel of three members of the Board. A hearing on the petition was held on February 28, 1980, at which time the panel received letters from various persons interested in Gordon's reinstatement, a petition containing names of approximately 700 individuals, testimony from several individuals and certain other articles, documents and letters. Both Gordon and Bar Counsel thereafter submitted briefs.

The panel concluded that Gordon has met his burden of demonstrating that he has the moral qualifications, competency and learning in the law required for admission to practice law in the Commonwealth and that his resumption of the practice of law would not be detrimental to the integrity and standing of the bar, the administration of justice, or to the public interest. The panel recommended that Gordon be reinstated to the Bar of the Commonwealth. Its report to the Board consisted of sixteen typewritten pages of findings of facts and its reasoning supportive of its recommendation. The Board entered an order accepting the report and adopting the recommendation for reinstatement. The matter was then referred back to this court. A single justice reserved and reported it without decision to the full court.

[429 N.E.2d 1153] Gordon was convicted of larceny, a felony, and conspiracy to commit larceny, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced on the felony to the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Walpole for a term of not more than three years or less than two and one-half years, and on the misdemeanor to a term of two and one-half years at the House of Correction at Deer Island for the county of Suffolk, to be served from and after the sentence imposed on the felony. He actually served a total of twenty months of incarceration. Gordon is now fifty-nine years old. He studied law at Suffolk University and received his LL.B. in 1947. He was admitted to practice before the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth in April, 1948, and admitted to practice before the United States Tax Court in 1954. He practiced law in the

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area of Lawrence and North Andover, and in 1956 he was appointed special justice of the Third District Court at Ipswich. He was serving as a judge of that court and in various other courts at the time of the incidents which resulted in his conviction and disbarment. He has now been disbarred for approximately sixteen years.

From 1966 to 1970, he was employed as controller and bookkeeper of a small electronics...

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