Results matching “jack mcconnell”

Around the web, January 27 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • That amendments to the Lacey Act make it impossible for American businesses to comply with importation regulations (as in the case of Gibson Guitar) without risking draconian criminal consequences is viewed by environmentalists and domestic producer special interests as a feature, rather than a bug. [Strassel]
  • The Engle progeny tobacco cases and their curious view of claim preclusion start to arrive in the U.S. Supreme Court. [SCOTUSBlog; Lahav]

  • Dumb class action against Nutella now looks to reward attorneys with millions. [Jackson; OL]

  • Business groups seeking change to Philadelphia courts' unfair reverse bifurcation procedures. [LNL]
  • Judge McConnell not impressed by OLC opinion on recess appointments. [AFS]
  • Loudoun County, Virginia taxpayers on hook for tens of thousands of dollars because governmental body's scorched-earth litigation against citizen who took a legal photo of a Board of Equalization meeting. [WaPo (h/t D.A.)]
  • Government-created shortage of Adderall and Ritalin; meanwhile, some trial lawyers putting profits ahead of people and seeking to ban entirely. [Star-Tribune; OL; Alkon; LA Weekly; L&S]

  • Mitt Romney's true tax rate is over 44%. [Tax Prof]
  • Annals of the improbable alibi. [ABAJ]

After a Republican Senator delivered his statement Wednesday against the nomination of Goodwin Liu to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) had this to say: "I have been on the Judiciary Committee for 18 years. I have never heard a harsher statement about a brilliant young man than I have just heard."

She was referring to the remarks of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), the ranking Republican on the committee, whose (excellent) floor statement concluded:

If confirmed, I am concerned that Mr. Liu will deeply divide the Ninth Circuit and move that court even further to the left. If confirmed, his activist ideology and judicial philosophy would seep well beyond the Berkeley campus. Sitting on the Ninth Circuit, his opinions and rulings would have far reaching effect on individuals and businesses throughout the nine-state Circuit, including places like Bozeman, Montana; Boise, Idaho, and Anchorage, Alaska.

For the reasons I have articulated – (1)his controversial writings and speeches; (2)an activist judicial philosophy; (3) his lack of judicial temperament; (4) his lack of candor before the Committee, and (5) his limited experience – as well as many other concerns which I have not expressed today, I shall oppose this nomination.


It appears Liu's nomination is in serious trouble. The 11 Republicans who voted against a filibuster on the nomination of trial lawyer John "Jack" McConnell to be a U.S. District Court judge in Rhode Island were moved by arguments against "politicizing" the confirmation of district court nominees. But Liu, whose qualifications appear primarily to his being a "brilliant young man" -- he's 40 -- and a legal radical, is being nominated to the appellate court.

The Senate continues the debate on Liu at 11 a.m. with a cloture vote anticipated for 2 p.m.

UPDATE (10:15 a.m.): Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweets: "Goodwin Liu's outrageous attack on Judge Samuel Alito convinced me that he is an ideologue." When you've lost Sen. Graham ...

UPDATE (1:30 p.m.): Here's Graham's statement opposing Liu's nomination. On Senate floor, Graham says he accepts judicial candidates who have differing views, but there is no excuse for impugning the motives and reputations of conservative judicial nominees.

Sen. Lamar Alexander was one of 11 Republicans to vote for cloture Wednesday on the nomination of John "Jack" McConnell to the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island who then voted against McConnell's final confirmation. The Tennessee Republican explained his position in floor remarks. Excerpt:

Mr. President, the Senate is a body of precedent. One important precedent is that never in Senate history has a President's district court nomination reported by the Judiciary Committee been defeated because of a filibuster, that is, because of a cloture vote. Once a nominee for federal district judge has gotten to the floor, the majority of senators have made the decision in an up-or-down vote.

Therefore, I will vote today for cloture in order to allow an up-or-down vote on the President's nomination of John McConnell. Then, I will vote "no" on confirmation because I believe he is a flawed nominee.

Coverage ....

UPDATE (6:10 p.m.): The Senate has now confirmed John "Jack" McConnell to be a judge on the U.S. District Court by a vote of 50-44. Republican Senators who supported cloture (see below) voted against final confirmation.


Eleven Republicans joined all Democratic Senators (save an absent Sen. Akaka of Hawaii) to invoke cloture on the nomination of John "Jack" McConnell to the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island by a vote of 63-33. The roll call vote is here.

It appears the arguments about depoliticizing the confirmation process carried weight with the Republicans, along with a little New England regional solidarity. The Republicans voting yes:

The Senate is expected to vote shortly after noon today on whether to move ahead with the full debate on the nomination of John "Jack" McConnell to the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island.

The public got a preview of any debate Tuesday when Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) spoke on the Senate floor against the nomination of McConnell, an attorney with Motley Rice who made -- and continues to make -- millions from the state tobacco lawsuit, is a major political contributor across the nation -- even in North Dakota -- and who in his public statements demonstrates judicial intemperance. Cornyn:

I am sorry to have to say this, but the hard truth is Mr. McConnell's record--which I will describe in a moment--is one of not upholding the rule of law but perverting the rule of law, ignoring the responsibilities he had to his client, and manipulating those ethical standards in order to enrich himself and his law partners.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, rose in defense of McConnell's nomination, but only after excoriating Republicans for delaying action on President Obama's judicial nominees. Leahy challenged Cornyn's assertion that McConnell had deceived the committee during the confirmation procedures, and praised the trial lawyer's dedication:

Some oppose him because he successfully represented plaintiffs, including the State of Rhode Island itself, in lawsuits against lead paint manufacturers. Some here in the Senate may support the lead paint industry. That is their right. I support those who want to go after the people who poison children. That is what Mr. McConnell did. But nobody should oppose Mr. McConnell for doing what lawyers do and vigorously representing his clients in those lawsuits.

It's a shock to see a Senate chairman so blithely accusing U.S. manufacturers of "poisoning" children. In any case, even if you admire McConnell's partnership with then Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse in ginning up a public nuisance complaint against the paint companies, it hardly reflects a mindset or legal experience befitting a judicial appointment.

We have The Congressional Record's account of the Cornyn and Leahy exchanges here.

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 ...

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday filed a cloture motion to force a confirmation vote on John "Jack" McConnell, the Motley Rice lawyer and major Democratic contributor who made millions from the state tobacco lawsuits. President Obama has nominated the trial lawyer several times to the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, but only to find his confirmation blocked because of his controversial statements, legal history -- directing the state's contingency suit against paint manufacturers, for example -- and hyperpartisanship.

Reid's motion could force a floor vote as early as Wednesday. In filing for cloture Monday, Reid said:

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I hope, as I mentioned this morning, we are not in a situation where we have to file cloture on district court judges. That is a little much. I filed cloture on this because I couldn't get agreement not to do it, but I hope we don't have to have cloture on all the district court judges whom somebody has some concern about.

This is a very good man. Morally his record is impeccable. As a lawyer, he is certainly one of the two or three best lawyers in the State of Rhode Island, and I would hope we could get this done on Wednesday when this cloture motion ripens.

The Providence Journal reports, "Reid seeking to force Senate vote on nomination of John J. McConnell to U.S. District Court for R.I."

Earlier POL coverage.

WSJ on John "Jack" McConnell (D.R.I.) nomination - PointOfLaw Forum

Around the web, April 4 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • How should courts treat "professional objectors"? [Schonbrun; Karlsgodt]
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court election tomorrow, has become proxy vote on Governor Walker union reforms. [Kaus]
  • Chamber continues to oppose Jack McConnell D.R.I. nomination; Senate Judiciary Committee approves. [ILR]

  • Virginia governor vetoes HB1459, which would have increased medical malpractice damage caps. Unlike most states, Virginia law caps total damages, and the bill increased the caps by 2.5% or less a year for twenty years. [WaPo]
  • Medical malpractice reform dies in New York. [Heritage]
  • Nocera on an odd exercise of prosecutorial discretion. [NYT]
  • US FCPA self-reporting down, while UK passes similar Bribery Act. An economist suggests that legalizing bribery (while continuing to forbid bribe-taking) is optimal way to discourage bribery, so these laws move in the wrong direction. [Corporate Crime Reporter; Levick @ Forbes; Tabarrok]
  • Odd, and likely unconstitutional, Arkansas ban on cyber-bullying passed despite sound opposition from Dan Greenberg. [Volokh]
  • Discredited Duke lacrosse accuser Crystal Mangum arrested for stabbing a man. [Raleigh News Observer]

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.


The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a business meeting Thursday that includes a vote on the nomination of John "Jack" McConnell to be U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Rhode Island.

McConnell was one of the leading tobacco lawyers, a top money maker for the Motley Rice firm in Providence and a big Democratic contributor. He later worked with Attorney General (now U.S. Senator) Sheldon Whitehouse to gin up and pursue public nuisance claims against manufacturers of lead-based paint. The contingency fee lawsuit would have brought many more millions to McConnell, but was unanimously rejected by the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 2008.

And that's why he should be a federal judge!

Judicial Watch has pored through McConnell's committee disclosures and found that, if confirmed as a federal judge, he would still be pulling in millions of dollars annually from the tobacco settlement.

As the top litigator at his mega Providence law firm (Motley Rice), McConnell has raked in between $2 to $3 million a year since 1999 and will receive between $2.5 and $3.1 million annually through 2024 in “deferred compensation” for work on tobacco litigation.

See also Providence Journal, March 17, "Panel takes up McConnell nomination again." Also on the committee's agenda for a vote is Goodwin Liu, nominated to the Ninth Circuit Court.

UPDATE (1:30 p.m.): There's a North Dakota angle? Of course there is. Say Anything blogger Rob Port wonders if the tobacco settlement money is still driving politics in the state.

President Obama has renominated 42 judicial candidates returned to the White House after the Senate adjourned on Dec. 22. His list contains the four controversial nominees we've been tracking: Edward Chen, Goodwin Liu, Louis Butler, Jr., and John "Jack" McConnell.

Missing from the list, however, is Robert Chatigny, previously nominated to the Second Circuit.

The list of the nominations starts on Page 3 of The Congressional Record's Daily Digest.

Time for new generation of "Schoolhouse Rocks" videos, this one on how a federal judicial wins confirmation ... or doesn't. You could illustrate it with a symbolic black-robed figure walking up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, back and forth between the White House and the Senate. Or perhaps something more modern: The candidate could use the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lane to cycle between the two locations, with Chatigny sidelined with a flat.

Earlier posts.

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News reports: Senate to move on judicial nominations - PointOfLaw Forum

AP reports: "WASHINGTON -- After a monthslong blockade, Senate Republicans have agreed to let at least 19 of President Barack Obama's non-controversial judicial nominees win confirmation in the waning days of the congressional session in exchange for a commitment by Democrats not to seek votes on four others, according to officials familiar with the deal."

The AP only cites Goodwin Liu, nominated to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) last week identified the other three to The National Law Journal: Edward Chen, nominated to the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California; Louis Butler Jr., nominated to District Court for Wisconsin; and John "Jack" McConnell, the Motley Rice partner and Democratic contributor nominated to the District Court for Rhode Island.

Robert Chatigny, nominated to the Second Circuit, has not been reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

UPDATE (Tuesday, 10 a.m.): News coverage:  

No omnibus, but sneakiness looms as Congress leaves - PointOfLaw Forum

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has pulled the $1.1 trillion, 1,924-page omnibus spending bill after Republicans withdrew their support because of the now politically noxious earmarks. But we think it was Hans von Spakovsky's report that sealed the legislation's fate. Thursday afternoon, the Heritage Foundation's legal maven posted this at National Review Online, "In the Omnibus Bill, a Treat for the Litigation Industry":

Only God and Harry Reid know all of the goodies and unpleasant surprises tucked into the 2,000-page omnibus spending bill being crammed through Congress, but there's at least one gift for community organizers and ambulance-chasing tort lawyers: pages 199-200 of the bill, which contain funding for the Legal Services Corporation.

For years, liberals used the semi-government corporation to pursue lawsuits advancing their political and social causes, until a 1996 reform put a stop to most of the abuses. Lawyers funded by the LSC were prohibited from pursuing class-action lawsuits; engaging in political activities; challenging welfare reform and abortion restrictions; or representing illegal aliens.

However, as the "Explanation" accompanying the spending bill explains at page S9399 of the Congressional Record, Title V of the omnibus lifts the ban on class-action lawsuits and will "permit the use of funds" to file such actions.

It was the final straw!

Even without the omnibus, there's plenty of opportunity for legislative mischief as Congress winds up within the next week. There's a continuing resolution to fund the government, which one assumes will be clean, but maybe not. Sen. Reid this morning stressed his desire to move on nominations, again citing Deputy Attorney General nominee James Cole as a priority. Many judicial nominations have also been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and could receive floor action, including controversial candidates like Goodwin Liu, Edward Chen, Jack McConnell and Louis Butler Jr. (Robert Chatigny, nominated to the Second Circuit, never did get a committee vote.) The closing hours of a session often see the approval of a long slate of nominees.

Congress' departure is no guarantee of calm on the civil justice front, either. With Republicans in control of the House, the plaintiffs' bar is expected to turn to the Executive Branch to achieve its goals. Tax breaks for trial lawyers? As The Washington Times reported this week in a Page One story, "Changes on Hill bode ill for trial lawyers":

Tiger Joyce, president of the Washington-based American Tort Reform Association, said the trial lawyers group still has support from congressional Democrats who survived the midterm elections, but he thinks industry lobbyists will shift their "liability expansion" efforts toward "friends throughout the executive branch."

Mr. Joyce noted that the group has started a campaign through the Treasury Department to get a tax break that will allow trial lawyers to deduct costs advanced to clients immediately. Repeated attempts to persuade Congress to enact the tax break, valued at an estimated $1.6 billion over 10 years, have failed.

So many judicial nominees, so little time - PointOfLaw Forum

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, gave a Senate floor speech Wednesday protesting the slow pace of judicial confirmations. Leahy inserted into The Congressional Record a Slate article on the issue by Dahlia Lithwick and Carl Tobias.

Leahy's remarks could be seen as laying the groundwork for a move by the majority Democrats to force a vote on pending judicial confirmations. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) bruited such a move to the Blog of the Legal Times for the most controversial nominees, Rhode Island trial lawyer John "Jack" McConnell, Louis Butler of Wisconsin, Goodwin Liu of California for the 9th Circuit, and Edward Chen for the Northern District of California. The WSJ's Law Blog also reports, "Lame Duck Senate Looking to Act on Controversial Judges."

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination of 12 federal judges this morning, including the controversially beleaguered and embattled Robert Chatigny to the Second Circuit.

Conservatives groups sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Reid on Monday urging him not to push any executive branch nominations during the lame-duck session, citing the mentioned judicial candidates as among "the most egregious."

So Sen. Leahy's remarks Wednesday could be rallying the troops for the fight. Oh, they could have been just be another floor speech. Before he spoke, Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO) made a brief speech about S. 3538, the National Cyber Infrastructure Protection Act. After Sen. Leahy, Sen. Ron Wyden commemorated National Home Care and Hospice Month.

UPDATE (12:35 p.m.): The Judiciary Committee postponed action on all the judicial nominees.

The Senate will keep the 'Fringe Five' controversial judges - PointOfLaw Forum

Senate Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell that worked out an arrangement that will prevent President Obama from making recess appointments before the Senate returns to session after the November elections.

As in 2008 when Sen. Reid blocked recess appointments by President Bush, the Senate will hold brief pro forma sessions twice a week. By these regular meetings, the Senate avoids being recessed for a long enough period that the President's appointment authority would go into effect. Such is the claim, at any rate. You would think a leader of the Executive Branch would challenge the limits on its authority.

With the agreement, Senate Republicans also allowed the five controversial judicial nominees that were sent back President in August to remain under Senate consideration. Thus, President Obama will not have to renominate his controversial judges: Edward M. Chen, District Judge for the Northern District of California; Louis B. Butler, Jr., Western District of Wisconsin; John J. "Jack" McConnell, Jr., to District of Rhode Island; Goodwin Liu, to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit; and Robert N. Chatigny, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit.

Around the web, September 23 (political edition) - PointOfLaw Forum

The U.S. Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform has released results of a survey of 1,000 small business owners (conducted by the respected bipartisan team of Bill McInturff and Doug Schoen). Litigation is a concern. Highlights:

  • One in three (35 percent) of all small businesses have been sued or threatened with a lawsuit.
  • Sixty four percent say that lawsuits have been on the rise, and 68 percent believe that the number of lawsuits against companies will continue to increase over the next five years.
  • If targeted in a lawsuit: 74 percent of small business owners say companies such as theirs would very likely have to pass those costs on to their customers; 68 percent say they would very likely have to reduce existing employees' benefits; and 71 percent say they would very likely have to hold back on hiring new employees.

Meanwhile, "trial lawyer" remains a potent accusation in campaigns around the country. More from the political world:

The five controversial federal judicial candidates President Obama re-nominated on Tuesday were moved without any new hearings -- which would be superfluous, to be sure -- to the Senate Judiciary Committee's schedule for a vote at today's business meeting, but then action was held over until next week. The five are: Edward M. Chen, District Judge for the Northern District of California; Louis B. Butler, Jr., Western District of Wisconsin; John J. "Jack" McConnell, Jr., to District of Rhode Island; Goodwin Liu, to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit; and Robert N. Chatigny, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit.

The Washington Times weighed in on the judges in an editorial, "GOP Senate needed to block bad judges," objecting most vigorously to Chatigny and Chen. The Providence Journal covers the local story, "McConnell renominated to federal judgeship."

Senate moves slowly ... - PointOfLaw Forum

The Washington Post today revisits a perennial story, that of the speed with which the Senate is confirming judicial nominations, "Senate moves slowly in confirming Obama's lower-court judicial nominees."

The story comes in the wake of Democrats taking to the Senate floor last Thursday, July 29, to demand confirmation votes on President Obama's federal judicial nominees. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) led the colloquy, starting on page S6476 of The Congressional Record.

Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin praised Louis Butler Jr., the former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice nominated for the U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin. As this Wall Street Journal editorial recalls, voters in 2008 kicked Butler off the state Supreme Court, in part because of his liberal rulings against medical liability reform and his invention of "collective liability" for paint manfacturers. President Obama nominated him to the federal court in Oct. 2009 and renominated him last January.

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed of Rhode Island were also exercised about Republicans preventing a vote on John "Jack" McConnell, the Motley Rice attorney and Democratic contributor nominated to the U.S. District Court. Whitehouse attacked the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by name, posing the rhetorical question, "Do we want to let powerful out-of-State interests trump the better informed views of home State Senators about district court nominees? That is not the tradition of this body. I again ask my colleagues: Is this the tradition they want to set? If they open the door to out-of-State special interests trumping the considered judgment of home State Senators on district court nominees, will they ever get that door closed again? I submit it is a mistake for this body to go that road."

Alternatively, do we want Senators' parochial and political interests to always trump the public's objections to judicial nominees whose qualifications are solely political? Is that the road we want to go down?

Sen. Udall asked for unanimous consent several times to move the pending judicial candidates, with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) objecting. Two other controversial nominees who were stopped were Goodwin Liu to be a Ninth Circuit judge and Robert Chatigny to be on the Second Circuit. (Page S6486.)

Addendum: Originally appointed by Gov. Mike Doyle to the state Supreme Court to fill a vacancy, Justice Louis Butler was defeated in April 2008 for a full term by Burnett County Circuit Judge Michael Gableman. The expensive, rough-and-tumble campaign offended "good government" types, and Gableman became the target of a complaint based on one truthful TV ad. Last month the Wisconsin Judicial Commission decided not to take any action.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday, June 17, on the nomination of Rhode Island trial lawyer and lead-paint litigator John "Jack" McConnell to be a U.S. District Court Judge. McConnell is the Motley Rice partner and campaign contributor who orchestrated the state's public nuisance lawsuit against paint manufacturers. The committee vote was postponed from last week. (Earlier POL posts.)

In sort-of-related news, "American Association for Justice Honors Trial Lawyer Ron Motley with Lifetime Achievement Award." Motley will receive the honor at the AAJ's summer convention next month in Vancouver, B.C.