In re Keenan

Decision Date13 February 1943
Citation313 Mass. 186,47 N.E.2d 12
PartiesIn re KEENAN.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Proceeding by Wilfred B. Keenan for admission to the bar after previous disbarment by final judgment of the Supreme Judicial Court, wherein the Attorney General of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Bar Association of the City of Boston filed documents in the nature of ‘informations' seeking to review the order of the Superior Court which reinstated the attorney to the bar, and the attorney filed a demurrer to such informations.

Informations ordered to be consolidated as one case, for purpose of further proceedings, and the Chief Justice of the Superior Court ordered to send the record of the proceedings to the Supreme Judicial Court in accordance with opinion.

See, also, 310 Mass. 166, 37 N.E.2d 516, 137 A.L.R. 766.

Before FIELD, C. J., and LUMMUS, QUA, DOLAN, and COX, JJ.

R. T. Bushnell, Atty. Gen., and A. J. Santry and W. B. Luther, Sp. Asst. Attys. Gen., both of Boston, for Attorney General.

E. O. Proctor, of Boston, for Bar Assn. of the City of Boston.

M. A. Shattuck, of Boston, for Massachusetts Bar Assn.

F. L. Simpson, of Boston, for Keenan.

A committee for the Bar Association of the County of Middlesex submitted a brief.

FIELD, Chief Justice.

The Attorney General of the Commonwealth offered for filing in the full court of the Supreme Judicial Court a document entitled an ‘information’ relating to proceedings in the Superior Court upon the petition of Wilfred B. Keenan-previously disbarred from the office of attorney in the courts of the Commonwealth by a judgment of the Supreme Judicial Court-for admission to the bar. The Massachusetts Bar Association and the Bar Association of the City of Boston each offered for filing a document also entitled an ‘information’ of somewhat similar tenor. Each of these documents is hereinafter referred to as an ‘information.’ Each information concluded with the following: ‘Wherefore, the entire matter is submitted for such action as this court shall deem expedient in the interest[s] of the public welfare.’

The full court without hearing arguments made the following order: ‘Whereas the Attorney General of the Commonwealth, The Bar Association of the City of Boston and The Massachusetts Bar Association, have each presented an information to the Supreme Judicial Court for the Commonwealth in the matter of the admission of Wilfred B. Keenan as an attorney and counsellor at law in the courts of the Commonwealth, and have requested that the said informations be entered of record in said court and that such action may be taken thereunder as the court may consider appropriate: It is ordered that the clerk receive the said informations and enter them upon the docket of the court, and that in the matter of each of said informations the said Wilfred B. Keenan shall appear and file all his pleadings in defence thereof by way of demurrer, plea, answer and otherwise as he may be advised, on or before the first Monday of August, 1942, and upon the filing of subsequent pleadings, if any, by the informants, the three informations and the pleadings thereunder shall be presented to the full court upon the informations and the pleadings for the determination of all issues raised thereby not involving the actual trial of issues of fact, and the clerk shall give notice to the said Wilfred B. Keenan of the filing of these informations and of this order by sending by registered mail to the said Wilfred B. Keenan a copy of this order.’ The said Wilfred B. Keenan, hereinafter referred to as the respondent, thereupon filed with respect to each of the so called informations a ‘plea to the jurisdiction’ and, without waiving such ‘plea to the jurisdiction,’ a demurrer.’ The cases then came on to be heard by the full court and were argued by brief and orally by counsel for the respondent, and by brief and orally by the Attorney General, by counsel for the Massachusetts Bar Association and by counsel for the Bar Association of the City of Boston, and a brief was filed by leave of court in behalf of the Bar Association of the County of Middlesex.

Many of the matters set forth in the informations are of record in this court and, even apart from the statements with respect to such matters in the informations, are before us for consideration. Commonwealth v. DiStasio, 298 Mass. 562, 567, 11 N.E.2d 799;Culhane v. Foley, 305 Mass. 542, 543, 26 N.E.2d 331;Curley v. Boston, 312 Mass. 58, 61, 43 N.E.2d 377.

The history of the litigation relating to the membership of the respondent in the bar, as appears of record in this court, is as follows: An original petition was filed in the Supreme Judicial Court in behalf of a committee of citizens of the Commonwealth. In it were allegations that abuses and unprofessional conduct on the part of members of the bar existed in connection with actions of tort for personal injuries and property damage. It contained a prayer that an inquiry be ordered. An order was entered directing the inquiry and two special commissioners were appointed. Hearings were had before one of these commissioners respecting alleged conduct of the present respondent. The commissioner filed a report concerning this respondent, recommending that proceedings be taken for his disbarment. An order of notice was issued to him and there was a trial before a single justice of this court.

After the trial the single justice filed written findings, rulings and an order for disbarment. Included therein were findings that the testimony of one witness tended to show that in five instances the respondent corruptly influenced or corruptly attempted to influence a juryman or jurymen in five cases tried in Suffolk County, but that, as there was no testimony adequately corroborating this testimony as to four of the cases, the charges made against the respondent with reference to jurymen in those cases were not proven. But as to the fifth case the single justice found that the testimony of this witness ‘was adequately corroborated by other evidence and that the respondent Keenan corruptly influenced three jurymen who sat in that case and was thereby guilty of gross misconduct.’ The corroborating evidence consisted of statements made by one of those three jurymen, who had died prior to the trial-such statements having been made before the date that order of notice upon the commissioner's report was issued to the respondent. The respondent excepted to the admission of this evidence. This court held that the evidence was rightly admitted, saying that these statements ‘were categorical, detailed and plenary. They amply support the finding of the single justice to the effect that the respondent ‘corruptly influenced three jurymen who sat in’ a specified case tried in the superior court ‘and was thereby guilty of gross misconduct.’ * * * They plainly implicated the respondent in the act of influencing the conduct of the three jurymen by the payment of money.' Matter of Keenan, 287 Mass. 577, 585, 192 N.E. 65, 69, 96 A.L.R. 679. After rescript from the full court a judgment was entered by a single justice of the court on October 19, 1934, disbarring the respondent. In re Keenan, 310 Mass. 166, 167, 37 N.E.2d 516, 137 A.L.R. 766.

Thereaftet a petition was filed by the present respondent in the Superior Court on December 28, 1939, for admission to the bar. An order of notice was issued thereon to the Bar Association of the City of Boston. Upon objection by the association to the jurisdiction of the Superior Court to hear the petition, a judge of that court ruled that it had jurisdiction of the petition and entered an order overruling the objection. The judge reported the jurisdictional question to this court. This court held that the Superior Court had jurisdiction of the petition and that there was no error in the ruling and order of the trial judge. In re Keenan, 310 Mass. 166, 185, 37 N.E.2d 516, 137 A.L.R. 766. These matters are stated in somewhat less detail in each of the informations. Each of them states that the ‘matter was then heard by a Justice of the Superior Court who entered an order on December 31, 1941, reinstating Keenan to the office of attorney at law in the courts of the Commonwealth.’

Each of the informations-with immaterial differences in phraseology-contains the following: ‘The Bar Association of the City of Boston, to which notice of the petition had been given by order of the Superior Court and which had opposed its allowance, claimed an exception to the order, duly filed its exceptions, and also filed a motion that the proceedings be reported to this court to raise the question whether as a matter of law the petitioner on the record and the testimony adduced in the case is debarred from reinstatement or readmission to the bar. The Attorney General for the Commonwealth and the Massachusetts Bar Association filed petitions for leave to intervene in which they asked that the case be reported so that this court might finally determine whether there are offences by attorneys so serious as forever to debar one who has committed them from reinstatement or readmission, and whether the offence for which the said Keenan had been disbarred was such an offence. The Justice disallowed the exceptions of the Bar Association of the City of Boston and denied its motion for a report and [denied] the petitions for leave to intervene of the Attorney General and the Massachusetts Bar Association. The Attorney General claimed an exception to the denial of his petition to intervene and filed exceptions which were disallowed. The said Keenan's motion for entry of judgment on the order for reinstatement was allowed on April 17, 1941[2?].’ The information of the Massachusetts Bar Association and that of the Bar Association of the City of Boston-with immaterial differences in phraseology-contain the following: ‘The record of the proceedings before the Justice of the Superior...

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