"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Reid Moves Judicial Nomination Of Controversial Trial Lawer And Major Democrat Donor

May 3rd, 2011 by sclemons · No Comments

Last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on the nomination of John “Jack” McConnell, a controversial Rhode Island trial lawyer, to be a district judge. A cloture vote on his nomination could come as early as Wednesday this week.

When President Obama sent his nomination to the Senate last year, The Wall Street Journal described him in an editorial as “one of the East Coast’s most notorious plaintiff attorneys and Democratic partisans.” Further, the WSJ wrote, “The White House would have been hard pressed to find a nominee with a more thorough antibusiness record.”

In an April editorial, The Journal described Jack McConnell’s career. “As a partner at Motley Rice, Mr. McConnell built his career on tobacco and asbestos before moving to lead paint. In 1999, he was hired by Rhode Island’s attorney general to sue companies that produced lead paint decades ago. He engineered a ‘public nuisance’ theory of liability that was designed to allow plaintiffs to recover whopping awards from paint companies without having to prove product liability. He went on to earn his partisan bona fides as treasurer of the state Democratic Party.”

The WSJ editorial went on to point out, “The lead paint suits ultimately failed on their legal implausibility, but the relationships they built are still working for Mr. McConnell. The Rhode Island AG who hired Mr. McConnell was none other than Sheldon Whitehouse, now a Democratic Senator and Mr. McConnell’s biggest booster. . . . According to the Center for Responsive Politics, over the past two decades Mr. McConnell and his wife have donated more than $500,000 to Democratic candidates and party organizations, including thousands to [Democrat Rhode Island Senators] Reed and Whitehouse.”

According to a report last year in Rhode Island’s Providence Journal, “John J. McConnell Jr., President Obama’s choice for the U.S. District Court in Rhode Island, is one of the top election campaign contributors among the nearly 1,500 nominees to the federal courts since the late 1980s. McConnell, 51, a Providence lawyer, has given at least $432,456 to Democratic House, Senate and presidential campaigns since the 1990 election cycle, according to a Providence Journal analysis of reports to the Federal Election Commission. Over the years, McConnell contributed tens of thousands of dollars in total to the campaign funds of major Democratic presidential candidates and of Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse. The Rhode Island senators last April recommended McConnell for a seat on the court. McConnell is also a substantial contributor to the party campaign arm that helps elect Democrats to the Senate, whose members must vote on whether to seat him on the federal bench. It is commonplace for presidents and senators to look to their political backers and campaign fundraisers to fill important federal jobs, including judgeships. But the size of McConnell’s contributions distinguishes him from his peers in the pool of prospects for lifetime seats on the federal bench.”

The WSJ editors also noted another troubling aspect of Jack McConnell’s past, concerning the failed lead paint lawsuits: “The Judiciary Committee’s review of Mr. McConnell also raised new questions about his involvement with a scandal at Motley Rice and what he told the committee about it. The issue, which involves the theft of confidential documents in a lead paint case, is the subject of a Sherwin Williams lawsuit in Ohio against the firm. In response to written questions from Arizona Senator Jon Kyl in May 2010, Mr. McConnell told the committee he wasn’t very involved in the lead paint case, was not familiar with the documents in question and had no reason to believe he’d be one of the defendants in the Ohio lawsuit. In deposition testimony in September 2010, however, his memory was suddenly refreshed: He was the first lawyer in his office to review the documents, signed a brief which incorporated portions of them and even helped write an article about the information.”

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