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Sen. Cornyn dissects judicial nomination of Jack McConnell



Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has distributed a "Dear Colleague" letter that destroys the already weak case for Senate confirmation of Motley Rice attorney John "Jack" McConnell to the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island. Cornyn charges McConnell with ethical failings, lack of judicial temperament, an anti-business bias and for helping to spread the practice of state-run contingency-fee lawsuits. From the letter (via the Institute for Legal Research):

[Mr. McConnell's] 25-year legal career is surrounded by ethical cloud. As a crusading plaintiff's lawyer, "Mr. McConnell and his firm helped pioneer the practice of soliciting public officials to bring lawsuits in which the private lawyers are paid a percentage of any judgment or settlement." Specifically, Mr. McConnell has helped initiate and direct the litigation of mass tort suits brought by state attorneys general against tobacco and lead -based paint manufacturers. I have long argued that these types of outsourced contingent-fee arrangements are inherently unethical and inevitably lead to the appearance of public corruption. In Texas, for instance, my predecessor as Attorney General served over three years in federal prison for his role in manipulating documents related to a contingent-fee contract and attempting to channel settlement funds to a close friend. While in the private sector contingency fee agreements, though not without controversy, can provide a poor person a key to the courthouse they could not otherwise afford, they have special problems in the public sector. In the public sectors it would be analogous to outsourcing traffic tickets to a private security firm paid by a percentage of the income - no checks, no balances, no exercise of prosecutorial discretion, just a pure profit motive.

More commentary below the fold ...

For purposes of disclosure: Cornyn's highlights McConnell's contributions to the 2000 gubernatorial campaign of North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, also active in the state tobacco settlement. I was the campaign press secretary for her opponent, John Hoeven. Hoeven won, served as governor for 10 years, and is now U.S. Senator for North Dakota. In looking at campaign contributions that year, it seemed like the South Carolina and Mississippi trial lawyers directed more money to down-ticket races in order to avoid controversy. Or to spread the wealth.

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Isaac Gorodetski
Project Manager,
Center for Legal Policy at the
Manhattan Institute
igorodetski@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.