Keating declined to estimate the value of his law firm’s services to Dougan, saying he had “no intention of describing my fees in this case to the Globe.” Previously, he had refused even to confirm that he was donating his time to Dougan, calling it “a matter between my client and myself” in 2011.
However, Dougan’s own annual reports on outside gifts and income suggest that Foley Hoag had donated at least $85,000 in legal services by the end of 2011.
He told the state’s highest court that Foley Hoag donated $15,000 worth of services to him in 2010 alone, and he told the State Ethics Commission that the firm gave him “more than 100 hours” of work in 2011. Legal specialists say that top litigators like Keating typically charge at least $700 an hour, making his time in 2011 worth at least $70,000.
Dougan has not filed financial disclosures for 2012, but some observers say the total value of the legal services donated by Foley Hoag could be closer to $250,000 once 2012 is included.
Ironically, the free legal services could trigger a new investigation of Dougan, either by the Judicial Conduct Commission or the Ethics Commission.
Foley Hoag specializes in business and corporate law, but the firm’s website indicates that more than 30 attorneys and paralegals help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, work that commonly involves district courts. In addition, Foley Hoag sometimes takes criminal cases in Boston.
If the Ethics Commission finds that Dougan has violated the state conflict-of-interest law by accepting the free services, it could fine him up to $10,000 for each violation and require him to pay the legal bill.
Separately, the Judicial Conduct Commission has discretion in deciding what penalties to impose for misconduct, including fines, public censure, and even forced retirement, but the Supreme Judicial Court makes the final decision.
Last week, Howard Neff, executive director of the Judicial Conduct Commission, would not say whether a judge must pay his own legal bills when dealing with his agency. “That’s not a question I’m in a position to answer,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Supreme Judicial Court also would not say whether accepting free legal services would violate the judicial code of conduct. However, the spokeswoman, Joan Kenney, pointed to a key paragraph of the code which “prohibits judges from accepting gifts, bequests, favors, or loans from lawyers or their firms if they have come or are likely to come before the judge.”
Keating, Dougan’s attorney, said there is nothing to investigate, arguing that Dougan fulfilled all his ethical duties by reporting the pro bono legal services in annual reports. He noted that no one from the Supreme Judicial Court or the Ethics Commission “has raised a single question” about the gifts.
Any investigation would have to determine the exact value of the gifts from Foley Hoag, a subject on which Dougan is somewhat vague. In his filing with the Supreme Judicial Court, he described the 2011 pro bono legal services as “substantial,” but did not provide a precise dollar value as officials of the court and the Ethics Commission say is required.
Mone, a friend of Keating who has represented several judges in misconduct proceedings, said he always sends judges a bill for his services because they are public employees.
“When I represent a judge, I charge them, but the money goes to charity,” he said. However, Mone added that because the principles at the heart of the Dougan case, judicial independence and judicial privilege, were so important, he understood why “any lawyer would do that pro bono.”
Andrea Estes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.