Turner’s not going away without a fight

Lawyer Darling says voter rights at issue

‘Politically, I’m a little right, and he’s a little left,’ Darling (left) said of Chuck Turner. ‘But that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to the value of a person.’ ‘Politically, I’m a little right, and he’s a little left,’ Darling (left) said of Chuck Turner. ‘But that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to the value of a person.’
By Andrew Ryan
Globe Staff / December 16, 2010

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Chuck Turner is fighting his expulsion from the Boston City Council, and he has made what might seem a peculiar choice for an attorney. Welcome back Chester Darling, the retired conservative crusader who waged legal battles against many of the causes Turner championed.

Whereas Turner advocated the advancement of minorities, Darling fought affirmative action and race-based school admission policies in schools. While Turner supported gay rights, Darling won a landmark Supreme Court case that barred gays and lesbians from marching in South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

“Politically, I’m a little right, and he’s a little left,’’ Darling said yesterday by phone from his home in Andover. “But that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to the value of a person. . . . I didn’t hesitate to agree to represent him, because I know the guy’s character and value.’’

Coming out of a four-year retirement, Darling will be working pro bono for Turner, who was convicted of accepting a $1,000 bribe and faces sen tencing in US District Court Jan. 25. Turner did not return a phone message seeking comment yesterday.

Darling sent a detailed three-page letter to the City Council this week, warning the body not to move forward with a special election to fill Turner’s former seat representing District 7, which includes Roxbury; Lower Roxbury; and parts of the Fenway, South End, and Dorchester.

“My client has been needlessly humiliated, subjected to public ridicule, loss [of] employment and his professional standing as an elected official,’’ the letter states. “The issue of disenfranchisement of the voters of District 7 . . . raises loss of rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.’’

The council ignored the letter’s threat of “costly legal action’’ and voted, 11-1, to hold a preliminary election for the seat Feb. 15, followed by a final election March 15. Darling said he plans to file a complaint as early as next week in US District Court, seeking “injunctive relief’’ for Turner’s reinstatement.

The City Council erred on several fronts, Darling said, including when it unanimously passed a rule after Turner’s arrest that required a disciplinary hearing for members convicted of a felony. Turner and his fellow councilors should have passed the measure as a home-rule petition, which requires approval from the Legislature, Darling said.

“We are on firm legal standing,’’ the City Council’s president, Michael P. Ross, said yesterday. “I’m confident in the action we’ve taken.’’

Darling once represented the City Council when it fought to hire its own lawyer. But he has also fought against the city on a variety of other fronts, once winning a judgment overturning the use of race as a basis for admissions at Boston Latin School.

Darling said that he got to know Turner in a professional capacity, and that the two connected through an acquaintance. He said they have more in common than one might think.

“Some of his liberal views are ones that I share as far as the Constitution is concerned, for the right of assembly and to petition the government,’’ he said. “The people who voted him into office have lost their voice.’’

Andrew Ryan can be reached at