SJC agrees to hear moot DiMasi case

Court calls issue one of great legal importance


A YEAR AND A DAY after the case was rendered moot by the calendar, the Supreme Judicial Court last week decided that it will nonetheless rule in the case involving former Speaker Sal DiMasi’s registration as a lobbyist in Massachusetts and is working to schedule oral arguments for later this year.

At issue in the case is whether DiMasi’s 2011 convictions on federal corruption and extortion charges automatically disqualified him from registering as a state-level lobbyist for 10 years and whether Secretary of State William Galvin was right to deny DiMasi’s registration in 2019. DiMasi appealed Galvin’s ruling and it was overturned when the judge agreed with DiMasi’s argument that the law banning convicted felons from lobbying in Massachusetts pertained only to convictions for state crimes, not federal. Galvin then appealed and the Supreme Judicial Court opted to hear the case itself.

Whether the 10-year prohibition applies to DiMasi or not, June 15 marked 11 years since the former House speaker was convicted of public corruption for accepting kickbacks in exchange for steering lucrative state contracts to a Burlington software company, Cognos. The SJC issued an order on June 16 declaring the DiMasi case moot, but also saying that it had reached out to both sides to see if either had an opinion on whether the SJC should nonetheless decide the case on its merits.

“DiMasi has indicated that he takes no position on that issue. The Secretary has advanced several reasons in favor of our deciding the case. After considering the Secretary’s arguments, we are of the view that the legal issue is of great public importance and is likely to recur,” the court wrote. “Moreover, the case is fully briefed, and the legal issue presented is statutory rather than constitutional.”

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Galvin’s office and DiMasi’s attorneys were ordered to confer with the SJC’s clerk to schedule oral arguments in the DiMasi case for some time this fall, according to the order.

DiMasi is registered as a lobbyist, according to state records, and has listed the Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center and North End Waterfront Health among his clients.