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The case of Jack McConnell

A knowledgeable source directs our attention to Rhode Island federal judicial nominee John J. McConnell, Jr. He writes:

Harry Reid is expected to file cloture on Jack McConnell’s nomination to serve on the U.S. District Court for the district of Rhode Island, setting up an imminent cloture vote. In light of this development, I wanted to bring a few background items to your attention you might find of note.
First: and foremost, the guy lied during his confirmation hearing.
In response to a question posed by Senator Kyl regarding his familiarity with a set of stolen, privileged documents that his law firm obtained during their case against lead paint manufacturers, McConnell claimed that he only saw the documents “briefly” and was not familiar with them “in any fashion.”
Just a few months later, however, McConnell sang a different tune when testifying in a deposition, saying that he was he the first attorney to review the documents in question, that he had drafted a newspaper editorial citing information that appeared to come from the documents, and that portions of the documents were incorporated into a brief filed under his signature.
Despite this obvious contradiction, McConnell unequivocally stood by his prior statement in his March 2011 answers to additional written questions from Senator Lee.
Second: The guy was the DIRECTOR of Planned Parenthood Rhode Island for four years, has been a member of Amnesty International since 1989, and worked with ACORN in convincing municipalities to bring lead-paint lawsuits.
Third: McConnell pioneered the practice of “soliciting public officials to bring lawsuits in which the private lawyers are paid a percentage of any judgment or settlement.” (“Fools for Motley,” Wall Street Journal, Apr. 24, 2009)
McConnell developed and successfully shopped the lead-based paint “public nuisance” litigation to the State of Rhode Island (and then-Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse), as well as several municipalities. But less-publicized is the fact that McConnell was a key figure in the tobacco litigation as a “negotiator and primary drafter of the master settlement agreement” (his own words) between the tobacco companies and the states. In other words, McConnell was as responsible as anyone for setting the exorbitant fee arrangements in that litigation. By some accounts, he and his partners at Ness Motley (now Motley Rice) will collect as much as $2 billion in legal fees from the tobacco settlement.
Fourth: these contingent-fee litigation arrangements raised numerous concerns of impropriety and “pay-to-play” dealings. In 1999, McConnell and his law firm were hired on a contingent-fee basis by the Rhode Island Attorney General to sue manufacturers of lead-based paint. Mr. McConnell had contributed the maximum amount of money allowed by Rhode Island law to that Attorney General’s campaign in 1998. McConnell and his partners have engaged in a similar pattern of behavior across the country.
Fifth: these types of outsourced contingent-fee arrangements are inherently unethical and inevitably lead to the appearance of public corruption. In Texas, for instance, former Attorney General Dan Morales went to prison for three years for his role in manipulating documents related to a contingent-fee contract and attempting to channel settlement funds to a close friend.
Bottom line, this guy doesn’t deserve a lifetime appointment to a park bench, let alone in a federal district court. . .

Curt Levey has posted a short item on the upcoming cloture vote on the McConnell nomination at the Committee for Justice Blog, as has David Bauman at the Main Justice blog. It should also be noted that the indefatigable Ed Whelan has been on the McConnell case for a while.

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