The Senate Judiciary Committee today voted 11-7
on party lines to approve the nomination of John "Jack" McConnell for the U.S. District Court, District of Rhode Island. Whether the Motley Rice trial attorney and Democratic contributor ever gets a final confirmation vote on the Senate floor is another matter. (Updated Friday, 9 a.m.: Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) joined the Democrats in supporting McConnell.)
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), the committee's ranking member, read a lengthy and strongly worded statement in opposition to McConnell's nomination. Excerpt:
Mr. McConnell has a view of the law that I believe is outside the mainstream of legal thought. Much of Mr. McConnell's career has been devoted to bringing some of the most controversial mass tort litigation of recent years. He has pursued the manufacturers of asbestos, tobacco, and lead paint, whose actions he believes to be "unjust." In bringing many of these cases, Mr. McConnell has often stretched legal argument beyond its breaking point. An example is the "public nuisance" theory he pursued in the Rhode Island lead paint case. Well-respected attorneys have said Mr. McConnell's theory "just [did not] mesh with centuries of Anglo-American law" and a former attorney general called the lead-paint cases "a lawsuit in search of a legal theory."
The Rhode Island Supreme Court unanimously ruled against him in State v. Lead Industries Associates, Inc. In a well-reasoned opinion, the court found that there was no set of facts that he could have proven to establish that the defendants were liable in public nuisance.