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Ethics complaint against high court justice advances

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The state Ethics Commission denied motions by a Rhode Island Supreme Court justice to dismiss a complaint against him Tuesday.

The complaint alleges Justice Francis Flaherty violated ethics rules by not reporting his service on the board of a Catholic lawyers’ group on financial disclosure forms required of public officials.

The commission didn’t find merit in the legal arguments raised by Flaherty, said Jason Gramitt, the commission’s executive director.

A hearing will now be held to determine whether Flaherty violated the code. A date for that adjudicative hearing has not yet been set.

Flaherty said in the motions that it wasn’t a knowing and willful violation of the ethics code. He questioned the commission’s authority to enact financial disclosure provisions and said his due process rights were violated during the probable cause hearing.
The prosecutor objected, arguing the disclosure forms are clear, the judiciary recognizes the commission’s authority and Flaherty’s due process claims are unfounded.

The complaint was filed by a woman who sued the Diocese of Providence after saying she was abused by Brendan Smyth, a notorious pedophile priest. Her lawsuit was dismissed due to the statute of limitations. Flaherty wrote a Supreme Court decision rejecting her appeal.

The woman says Flaherty should have recused himself because diocesan officials are involved in the group, the St. Thomas More Society of Rhode Island.

Flaherty’s attorney said Tuesday he could not comment on an ongoing matter.

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