Results matching “motley”

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.


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.

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:  

More on the John McConnell (D.R.I.) nomination - PointOfLaw Forum

The Ocean State Policy Research Institute wants some answers about McConnell's role in a corrupt $2.5 million cy pres award in the Rhode Island lead paint litigation—to a Massachusetts hospital that Motley Rice owed money to, and that accepted the cy pres award as satisfaction of Motley Rice's obligation, thus serving as a laundered attorney's fee. A shame neither the Democratic U.S. Attorney nor the Democratic state attorney general is going to investigate it: the Senate Judiciary Committee should take this opportunity to do so.

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.

In Rhode Island, campaigning on failure - PointOfLaw Forum

Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, a Democrat running for governor, is actually campaigning on having lost a lawsuit. From AP's report on a candidate forum, "6 Rhode Island candidates for governor discuss childhood poverty at interfaith forum":

When the candidates were asked about protecting children, Democrat Patrick Lynch touted his record as two-term attorney general, including suing former lead paint companies for making a toxic product.

The state won a jury verdict in 2006 that could have cost three companies billions of dollars, but the decision was overturned two years later by the state Supreme Court.

"It's still used for political potshots, but I was the only one who stood up," Lynch said.

Stood up and continued the legally suspect public nuisance lawsuit started by Lynch's predecessor, AG Sheldon Whitehouse, before finally losing! (Supreme Court opinion here.)

State of Rhode Island v. Lead Industries Association, Inc., et al. case is in the news again this week because the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday will hold a hearing on the nomination of John J. "Jack" McConnell, Jr., to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Rhode Island. McConnell is the Motley Rice attorney who, on a contingency basis, "led the trial team representing the State of Rhode Island in the public nuisance litigation against the major former manufacturers of lead paint."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform just issued a statement opposing McConnell's nomination. Lisa Rickard, ILR President, said:

In addition to earning a lackluster rating from the American Bar Association, Mr. McConnell has defined his plaintiffs' lawyer career by suing employers based on controversial legal theories. For example, he has spent a large part of the past decade advancing a misguided interpretation of the public nuisance theory in lead paint litigation, which was rejected by four state supreme courts, including the unanimous rejection by the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Nina Totenberg's various Morning Edition reports this morning on the expected nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court included these facts.

  • Her presence would result in three female justices on the nine-member court for the first time in its history.
  • If confirmed, she also would become the third Jewish justice on the current court, which has six Catholics.
  • With Stevens' exit, there would be no Protestants.

But what clan does she belong to?

Oh, right. It's Harvard Law.

Elsewhere in controversial court nominations, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on judicial nominations, including that of John J. "Jack" McConnell, Jr., to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Rhode Island. McConnell, a partner at Motley Rice, is Rhode Island's leading trial lawyer, one of the original tobacco attorneys, and a generous campaign contributor to the state's Democrats. (He and his wife, $700,000 over a decade!) McConnell and then-Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (now a U.S. Senator) ginned up the public nuisance suit against paint manufacturers, eventually thrown out by the Rhode Island Supreme Court. (Earlier Point of Law post.)

On Friday, the Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Goodwin Liu to serve on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Republicans delayed a vote scheduled for last week on Liu. Unfortunately, the vote is being cast as a warm-up to the Kagan confirmation battle, diverting attention from Liu's far-out record, which Liu implicitly renounced at his hearing. We liked this Ed Whelan headline, "Goodwin Liu's Ambition Exceeds Even His Inexperience."

UPDATE (2:15 p.m.): Eric Turkewitz, author of the New York Personal Injury Law Blog, takes note of Kagan's thin experience in the private sector. From "Elena Kagan: The Three-Year Hole in the Resume":

President Obama on Wednesday nominated Rhode Island's most prominent trial lawyer and a generous campaign contributor, John J. "Jack" McConnell, to be a U.S. District Court judge. McConnell is the managing partner at Motley Rice (bio) and was one of primary figures behind the tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s.

McConnell also joined then Rhode Island Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse in dreaming up the public nuisance suit against paint manufacturers. In 2008, the state Supreme Court overturned the 2006 verdict against Sherwin-Williams Co., NL Industries Inc. and Millennium Holdings, but not before cities and states produced a wave of copycat lawsuits seeking to twist traditional public nuisance law into a new, all-encompassing brand of product liability law.

Whitehouse, now a U.S. Senator, and his Democratic colleague Jack Reed recommended McConnell for the judgeship in April 2009. (News release.) As the Wall Street Journal editorialized at the time:

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. The law firms front the costs of litigation and are compensated if the suit is successful. But such contingency-fee arrangements inevitably raise questions of pay to play. And private lawyers with state power and a financial stake in the outcome of a case can't be counted on to act in the interest of justice alone.

So, yes, McConnell is a transformative political figure, which is not what one normally asks for in a trial judge.

Trial Lawyers, Inc.: K Street -- State Government Relations - PointOfLaw Forum

In addition to contributing some $780 million to political candidates in federal campaigns over the last decade, lawyers have funneled $725 million to state-level campaigns. As noted in the Trial Lawyers, Inc.: K Street report:

Whereas trial lawyers' giving at the federal level tends to focus on Congress, at the state level the money is spread among all three branches of government. Because state judiciaries make most tort law--and have the power to invalidate statutory tort reforms as unconstitutional--the plaintiffs' bar has long concentrated on getting its allies onto the state bench . . . . State legislatures, as the source of statutory tort reform, are another arena of interest: any state legislator who tries to advance tort-reform legislation immediately becomes a target of the trial bar and can expect a very expensive reelection campaign. The litigation industry has even begun to turn its attention to the executive branch, since state attorneys general can farm out representation of the state's civil lawsuits to attorneys in private practice, and state treasurers and comptrollers, who control public-employee pension funds, can hire outside lawyers to initiate securities-fraud lawsuits . . . .

I'll briefly discuss how trial lawyers play in the political process for each branch of government; further detail can be found in the report itself, here.

  1. Judicial branch. Since tort law is common law governed by the courts, and many states elect their judges (39 in total, and 21 for the highest court), it is hardly surprising that the plaintiffs' bar focused much of its early political efforts on ensuring that its allies filled state supreme courts. In 1990, a trial lawyer "brazenly told Forbes magazine: '[U]ntil last year the plaintiff bar owned and controlled the Texas Supreme Court.' "

    What happened, also unsurprisingly, is that business interests figured out that they could pool their resources and influence judicial elections, too--setting off an arms race that grew increasingly unseemly, the worst excesses of which were exposed in last year's U.S. Supreme Court case, Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. The need to campaign creates inherent conflicts of interest "between judges' role as neutral interpreters of the law and their status as elected officials with a need to fund-raise for campaigns," and as both Walter and I have noted here in the past, there's much to be said for the decision by the framers of the U.S. constitution to separate the federal judiciary from the electoral process.

    There are no easy solutions, however, and as Ted Frank noted here, much of the campaign for "judicial independence" is little more than a thinly veiled effort by George Soros and others on the left to achieve supremacy. As Ted notes, for these advocates, the "idea that judicial decision-making is beyond questioning by other branches of government . . . . somehow only appl[ies] to criticism of left-wing judges and judicial decisions." Tellingly, these same voices purportedly concerned about any criticism of the judiciary raised not a peep when President Obama upbraided Supreme Court justices for their Citizens United ruling--when the justices were seated before him, surrounded by hostile partisans, in the televised State of the Union address; instead, they were busy decrying the same judicial decision themselves.

  2. Legislative branch. The trial bar has long been giving to state legislative races, too. Historically, these efforts were largely defensive: "the trial-lawyer lobby largely contented itself with blocking legislative reforms, depending on state supreme courts to invalidate, on constitutional grounds, those that somehow achieved enactment." As previously suggested, those efforts are still ongoing (realized most recently in the Illinois supreme court's decision to overturn legislatively enacted medical-malpractice-law reforms, again, on dubious constitutional grounds). But of late, the trial bar has embarked on a more aggressive, affirmative legislative agenda, as they've sought to exploit recent electoral shifts that "produced or increased majorities of trial-lawyer-friendly Democrats in state legislatures."

    Among the trial bar's legislative successes are expansions of consumer-fraud statutes in Iowa and Washington; the creation of new qui tam statutes in New Mexico, New Jersey, and Oklahoma; the addition of new theories of non-economic damages in Iowa and Illinois; and an increase in statutory limits on damages recoverable against the state in Oregon. This legislation, as well as other trial-bar-backed efforts introduced but not passed into law, is summarized in the Trial Lawyers, Inc.: K Street report, as well as recent articles and reports by the American Tort Reform Association (see here and here (PDF)).

  3. Executive branch. Finally, it will come to no surprise to regular readers of this site--or those who have read Walter Olson's The Rule of Lawyers--that lawyers have also become increasingly active in working to influence state attorneys general and others with the capacity to engender litigation from the executive branch. Since Ron Motley and the now-incarcerated Dickie Scruggs pioneered this tactic in the multistate tobacco litigation, it has ballooned into a major part of the business model for the plaintiffs' bar.

    The week before we released the K Street report, this issue got significant media attention: The Washington Times (in an editorial) explored the trial bar's "pay to play" tactics with state AG's who hire outside contingency counsel; and The Wall Street Journal (in an in-depth investigative piece) looked at the securities-class-action bar's political contributions to various state and local politicians who influence or control public employee pension funds (among the biggest investors in the market, and thus the best able to control such lawsuits under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995). More detail is available in the full report, here.


(I'd like to apologize to our readers for not posting a summary of our Trial Lawyers, Inc.: K Street's state government relations section before this morning: I got preoccupied penning a lengthy response to a disingenuous hit job on the report, which was written by Joanne Doroshow of the trial-lawyer-allied Center for Justice and Democracy (there's lots of stuff on that outfit and its shoddy and misleading work in our archives, and here); stay tuned for my reply.

Anyway, notwithstanding that I'm just getting around to my state government relations posting, I still intend to wrap this up with a post about the trial-bar's federal government relations activities sometime later today, so stay tuned for that, too.)

Around the web, December 8 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Searle Center at Northwestern releases new interim report on how creditor claims fare in arbitration and in court;
  • Previewing the Supreme Court arguments on "honest services fraud" law [WSJ Law Blog]
  • Trial lawyers ask Missouri Supreme Court to strike down legislated damage limits [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
  • Three Kane County, Ill. judicial candidates won't accept money from attorneys, are scoffed at by those who do [Daily Herald]
  • "Pigs get fat, Mississippi got slaughtered" in AG Hood's Zyprexa-pricing suit [Beck & Herrmann]
  • Jack McConnell of Motley Rice, picked by Rhode Island senators for federal judgeship, was generous political donor who recycled tobacco money into lead-paint crusade [Public Nuisance Wire and more, Providence Journal]

"Chicken farmers feel threatened by Oklahoma suit" - PointOfLaw Forum

An Associated Press account is surprisingly sympathetic to the poultry farmers whose livelihood is threatened by Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson's big-ticket suit. Trial is set for Sept. 21.

We've covered the suit several times as an example of the coziness of alliances between some state AGs and powerful private trial lawyers:


  • 7/19/05: suit flying mostly under the radar; per AP, in earlier suit by Tulsa "city received only $200,000 of the $7.5 million settlement, with the bulk going to lawyers. Edmondson says Oklahoma's contract with lawyers in the latest case states that fees and expenses won't toll more than 50 percent."
  • 10/6/05: per Will Wilson, AEI's AGWatch, "Edmondson has farmed out the litigation for the suit to campaign contributors; one-third of the booty from the case will go to firms whose letterheads coincide happily with the Edmondson donor list (Riggs, Orbison, Turpen, Neal)";
  • 4/30/06: famed non-Oklahoma firm Motley Rice gets finger-lickin' one-third contingency share;
  • 3/9/08: more on hiring of lawyers;

And more on Edmondson here, here, and here (running for governor).

The report comes by email from James Cordrey of Lexis/Nexis-Mealey's. "The Wisconsin Supreme Court today unanimously affirmed an appellate court ruling and held that lead pigment is not defectively designed, dismissing a lead-poisoned boy's claims for strict liability and negligence against the former manufacturers of white lead carbonate pigment (Ruben Baez Godoy v. E.I. duPont de Nemours and Co., et al., No. 2006AP2670, Wis. Sup." It sounds like a devastating setback for the well-organized mass tort campaign, which continues to press county and municipal recoupment litigation in California and elsewhere. Jane Genova has a link to the decision (PDF); statement of defense attorney Charles H. Moellenberg, Jr. of Jones Day; NLJ.

More: Maybe not so devastating to plaintiffs, as Julie Triedman, AmLaw Litigation Daily, notes: Fidelma Fitzpatrick of Motley Rice, who represents the plaintiff in the Godoy case,

points out that the court did not strike Godoy's failure to warn claim, and the case is expected to go forward on those grounds, as will a flood of other individual claims. Fitzpatrick says Motley Rice has an inventory of more than 200 such claims. ...

The Wisconsin high court's ruling is unlikely to change Wisconsin's status as ground zero for individual lead paint injury claims, says McGuireWoods' [Joy] Fuhr [who defended the case]. Wisconsin achieved that status exactly four years ago when it became the only state to permit individuals to file product liability claims even if they can't identify the specific manufacturer whose product caused the poisoning.

Around the web, June 12 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Wisconsin lawmakers drop proposed return of all-out joint and several liability, but governor signs into law big damages expansion in workplace litigation [WTMJ, WRN, Wisconsin Business, Insurance Journal]
  • Federalist Society Online Debate series tackles Employee Free Choice Act with Thomas Kochan and Patrick Szymanski pro, Richard Epstein and Eugene Scalia con [print version now online]
  • Motley Rice brief in Santa Clara case urges California high court to uphold contingency fees [Genova, part of a series on the briefs, more here and here]
  • Lawyers' insistence on punitive damages derails New Jersey push for bad faith auto insurance cause of action [NJLRA]
  • Mississippi AG Jim Hood extracts $40 million from Microsoft, and his contract lawyers should be happy too [Clarion-Ledger, N. Miss. Commentor] More: YallPolitics on settlement deal including roles of Susman Godfrey and Boies Schiller: first, second, third, fourth.
  • Behrens, Fowler, & Kim, "Global Litigation Trends" [Michigan State Journal of International Law, PDF courtesy Robinette/TortsProf]

Rhode Island: McConnell nomination, cont'd - PointOfLaw Forum

The Wall Street Journal is editorially critical of Rhode Island Senators' pick of Motley Rice partner Jack McConnell, Jr., for a federal district judgeship. Our earlier coverage is here.

John J. "Jack" McConnell Jr. of South Carolina-based Motley Rice, considered a key architect of the close alliance between the trial bar and the Rhode Island Democratic Party that led up to the state's failed litigation against lead paint companies, has been tagged for a seat on the state's federal district court by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed (both D-R.I.). [Providence Journal via Genova] As I noted eight years ago (see also this update from David Nieporent and this summary from Jim Copland), an investigation by Forbes found that after McConnell opened a Motley branch office in Providence, the firm quickly established itself as Rhode Island's largest political contributor for the 2000 elections, and McConnell himself became treasurer of the state party (and a key donor ever since, including to campaigns of Reed and Whitehouse). Whitehouse (as state AG) then proceeded to hire the Motley firm to conduct the state's much-publicized lawsuit seeking to assign the costs of lead paint cleanup to companies that produced the paint many decades earlier. That suit would have yielded enormous returns (and legal fees) had it succeeded, but in the event proved to be too drastic a stretch of legal principles for the courts to accept. For McConnell, though, at least, if not for many of the others involved, the whole episode seems to have resulted in a happy ending.

Steve Korris, West Virginia Record:

A prominent national asbestos law Motley Rice law firm implores U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno not to turn asbestos litigation into an investigation of false X-ray reports.

In a March 19 brief, John Herrick of the Motley Rice law firm complained that businesses defending themselves against asbestos claims seek to turn Robreno's court into a grand jury.

"After all, defendants are defendants in these cases -- not plaintiffs," he wrote.

Earlier here. P.S. In Tuesday's WSJ: Where are the prosecutors in the bogus-diagnosis scandals?

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