A Massachusetts judicial board has held that a Boston lawyer acted properly in taking as clients the captain and survivors or families of some dead crewmen killed when the Coast Guard cutter Uyahoga sank Oct. 20.
The lawyer Jerome V. Flanagan, said yesterday he had received a letter from State Board of Overseers bar counsel Robert J. DeGiacomo who said, "I am satisfied on the facts set forth that there is no conflict of interest in your representation."
The board acted after reporters questioned Flanagan's role in legal proceedings growing out of the Cuyahoga incident.
The cuyahoga sank in the Chesapeake Bay minutes after colliding with an Argentine freighter in busy shipping lanes. Eleven Coast Guard crewmen were killed.
Flanagan represented the captain of the Cuyahoga, Chief Warrant Officer Donald K. Robinson, before an official board of inquiry investigating the collision. Robinson has been named a "suspect" to release a final report by February.
The lawyer also was retained by 11 survivors or families of dead crewmen who have filed suit against the freighter, Santa Cruz II.
Flanagan maintained that his dual role was not a conflict because under maritime law, the survivors and families of victims are barred from taking legal action against their captain.
The owners of the Santa Cruz also filed suit several days after the collision, charging that the Cuyahoga, a training vessel, was unseaworthy and that the Cuyahoga's captain and crew were negligent.
A Baltimore attorney representing the Santa Cruz II, Kieron Quinn, said yesterday he has asked the Coast Guard to reconvene its inquiry to take testimony concerning Flanagan's role. Quinn said he was concerned about news reports that a Coast Guard legal officer had recommended Flanagan to two widows of Cuyahoga crewmen in their suits against the freighter.
"It looks like Flangan is representing the Coast Guard as well as everyone else," Quinn said. "It doesn't look right."
Quinn also is seeking to have the law suits transferred from Boston to Baltimore.