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Court rejects plea by Bulger victim’s family

Edward Brian Halloran, murdered in 1982.

Edward Brian Halloran was murdered in 1982.

The US Supreme Court refused Monday to reinstate a lawsuit filed against the FBI by relatives of Edward “Brian’’ Halloran, a mob associate who was allegedly gunned down on Boston’s waterfront in 1982 by James “Whitey’’ Bulger.

The family must now turn to Congress, where two Bay State lawmakers have filed special legislation to compensate them for the death of Halloran and of another man killed in a hail of bullets.

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“It’s disappointing, but the Supreme Court takes very few cases,’’ said William E. Christie, the New Hampshire-based attorney for the Halloran family. “Once again, the courts have denied the Halloran family justice.’’

The court delivered its decision in a 16-page order that listed dozens of other cases from around the country. The newest member of the high court, Justice Elena Kagan, did not participate in the decision, the court said.

Halloran’s relatives won a $2 million US District Court verdict against the FBI because of the bureau’s corrupt relationship with Bulger.

But the First US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that verdict, ruling that the statute of limitations had expired.

Halloran, 41, a Bulger associate, was getting a ride home from a bar on Boston’s waterfront on May 11, 1982, when Bulger and an unidentified associate allegedly opened fire, killing him and the man who gave him the ride, Michael Donahue, a 32-year-old Dorchester truck driver.

Bulger allegedly acted because he had been tipped off by a corrupt FBI agent that Halloran had become an FBI informant.

Bulger himself was an FBI informant who allegedly used his protected status to his advantage during a ruthless reign in Boston’s underworld.

Monday’s ruling ends the litigation for the Halloran family. But the legal battle continues for the Donahue family, which did not seek to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Boston attorney Edward T. Hinchey, who represents the Donahues, said the family, taking a different legal tack, will ask a federal judge Wednesday whether the family can continue its lawsuit against four former FBI officials for civil rights violations.

Hinchey said that if the family loses its bid Wednesday, “then we are all probably in front of Congress.’’

US Representative William R. Keating, a Bourne Democrat who has filed legislation that would require that both families be compensated, said the Supreme Court decision devastated Halloran’s family.

“I know from being a DA prior to this that it truly is, for the victim’s family, a traumatic roller coaster, and they’re on it,’’ Keating said in a phone interview. “And I hope something can be done to help them.’’

Keating said his office will soon begin meeting with the House Judiciary Committee to show that the Halloran family has no recourse besides congressional action.

US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, a South Boston Democrat, has filed similar legislation that would compensate the families and give Congress oversight of the FBI’s handling of confidential informants.

He said Monday that the informant system needs more scrutiny, in light of allegations that Mark Rossetti, an informant for the FBI in Boston, committed serious felonies while working with federal agents.

“I just don’t think there’s any transparency here,’’ Lynch said. “So if it’s happened twice in the same office, I think there’s a reason to look at this more closely.’’

Bulger’s longtime sidekick and fellow informant, Stephen “The Rifleman’’ Flemmi, testified during court proceedings that former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. warned him and Bulger that Halloran was cooperating with the FBI and had implicated the gangsters in an earlier slaying.

Flemmi said that the tip prompted Bulger to kill Halloran and that Donahue was just an innocent bystander.

Bulger is awaiting trial on federal racketeering charges that include allegations that he killed 19 people, including Halloran and Donahue.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com.

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