BOSTON – The U.S. commerce secretary has denied a request by Northeast lawmakers who lobbied him to allow more fishermen accused of breaking the law to have their cases reviewed for fairness.

Secretary Gary Locke also refused to freeze pending sanctions against fishermen while a special investigator he appointed considers whether several questionable penalties imposed by fishery police are justified, according to a memo dated Tuesday.

Locke last year appointed retired Judge Charles Swartwood to look into the cases, following a review by Locke’s inspector general of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s law enforcement office.

The review found financial mismanagement, abusive treatment of fishermen and the use of high-pressure tactics to force them to settle claims. It also highlighted 19 questionable penalties for more scrutiny.

Massachusetts congressmen and Gov. Deval Patrick asked Locke to create a “window of time” for other fishermen to come forward, arguing they may have previously been too intimidated to file a complaint within a system they considered biased.

But in the memo, Locke said the inspector general’s office had worked hard to ferret out cases with possible abuse, interviewing 225 people, and expressed doubt large numbers of fishermen were still waiting to be heard.

Locke also stressed the need for a balance between discovering wrongdoing and bringing the review to a proper end.

“The importance of finality warrants placing reasonable bounds on the cases that are eligible for review by the special master (Swartwood),” he said.

Lawmakers were already miffed at Locke for his denial earlier this month of a request by Patrick for emergency increases in fish-catch limits. On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank called Locke’s decision “one more assault on the legitimate concerns of the fishing industry,” and said Locke was denying fishermen “a chance at justice.”

He promised to bring up the decision with the White House.

The inspector general’s review of NOAA’s law enforcement office followed years of complaints by Northeast fishermen of retaliation and abusive treatment.

The inquiry found abuse allegations weren’t widespread. But it detailed a strategy in the law enforcement office of proposing large fines, sometimes in the six figures, to prod fishermen toward settling cases. It also cited “animus” toward fishermen by a key attorney handling their cases, Charles Juliand, who responded that he was the victim of a smear campaign.

The report found misspending of fines collected from fishermen on items such as a luxury undercover boat. And the enforcement agency’s former head, Dale Jones, was replaced after he was accused of ordering dozens of documents shredded during the review.

Union representatives for the enforcement officers have said they were being scapegoated for properly enforcing the nation’s complicated fishery laws, which govern where fishermen can fish and what gear they can use.

In his memo, Locke said Swartwood was reviewing 18 of the complaints the inspector general had flagged, and that another 104 previous complaints were subject to possible review by Swartwood, though 78 still hadn’t moved forward because the fishermen involved hadn’t waived confidentiality.

Locke declined requests to stay any fines or sanctions against the fishermen while their penalties were being reviewed, saying it might appear he was presuming Swartwood would rule in their favor.

“It is important for the integrity of this process and the recommendations that he will make that there be no political or other undue influence of his independence,” Locke said.

Attorney Pamela Lafreniere, who has represented numerous fishermen accused of fishery law violations, called the decision “illogical.” She said it’s common sense not to force a fisherman to pay a fine until the review determines it’s justified.

Lafreniere added that after his memo, fishermen’s hopes of working with Locke on the issue “are completely dashed in each and every way.”