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Federal judge tosses 11 of 14 claims in lawsuit brought by former Boston police commissioner

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed 11 of 14 claims brought against the city by former Boston police commissioner Dennis White in litigation that focused on the city’s decision to fire White when former domestic abuse allegations against him resurfaced.

Judge Leo T. Sorokin tossed allegations that the city and Boston’s former acting mayor, Kim Janey, had violated the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, as well as another state law that governs the removal of a Boston police commissioner, and breached an implied contract.

His order allowed due process, defamation, and right to privacy claims to proceed in the case. Sorokin previously found that White failed to support his claims that his termination was discriminatory.


In a statement, White’s attorney, Nick Carter, said his client is pleased that the court has allowed “some of his key claims to move forward.”

“As we allege in the complaint, Commissioner White denies that he engaged in domestic violence against his former wife more than 20 years ago as alleged or at any time against anyone,” he said.

“Yet the City and Mayor Janey falsely communicated that he engaged in the most severe acts of domestic violence based on the unsworn allegations of four unidentified individuals as supposed evidence against him to support his termination,” he continued. “Commissioner White has never been told who these individuals are or what the basis of their allegations is. This is not due process. It’s no process.”

City officials declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation. An initial scheduling conference in the case is set for Aug. 4.

In May 2021, White sued the city and Janey in Suffolk Superior Court, seeking to block his removal as commissioner. The litigation was moved to federal court last June, the same month Janey fired White, who served as commissioner for just two days before he was placed on leave after a Globe inquiry into past domestic violence allegations.


In firing White, Janey cited his own admissions that he had pushed and hit members of his household. She said the allegations and evidence raised serious questions about his fitness to lead the Boston police.

White was accused in 1999 of striking and threatening to shoot his then-wife, also a Boston police officer, as well as of hitting a 19-year-old woman in a separate incident in 1993.

Since White was placed on leave, the police department has effectively been without a permanent leader, although the city is expected to announce a new commissioner this week.

That person will take charge of a department buffeted by scandal in recent years, from allegations of overtime fraud at an evidence warehouse to revelations that the department allowed an officer to remain on the force for years after investigators determined in the mid-1990s he had more than likely molested a child.

Former mayor Martin Walsh hastily appointed White police commissioner without conducting any sort of vetting process. When Walsh left City Hall to become the nation’s labor secretary, Janey became acting mayor and inherited the White controversy. Janey ran for a full mayoral term last year but was eliminated in a preliminary election. Mayor Michelle Wu won November’s general election and was sworn in that same month.

Danny McDonald can be reached at Follow him @Danny__McDonald.