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April 18, 2011

Jack McConnell: Not Fit for the Bench

It’s been no secret that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has taken the unprecedented stance of opposing U.S. District Court nominee John “Jack” McConnell. His fundamental, long-demonstrated bias against business, his activist judicial philosophy, his built-in conflict of interest with annual multi-million-dollar payouts, and his low ABA judge review all strongly underscore our position. But the Wall Street Journal’s editorial, declaring that “his changing story about his lead paint advocacy is enough by itself to disqualify him for the bench,” adds a new concern: his veracity to the U.S. Senate. 

As a partner at Motley Rice, Mr. McConnell built his career on tobacco and asbestos before moving to lead paint. In 1999, he was hired by Rhode Island’s attorney general to sue companies that produced lead paint decades ago. He engineered a “public nuisance” theory of liability that was designed to allow plaintiffs to recover whopping awards from paint companies without having to prove product liability. He went on to earn his partisan bona fides as treasurer of the state Democratic Party.

The Judiciary Committee’s review of Mr. McConnell also raised new questions about his involvement with a scandal at Motley Rice and what he told the committee about it. The issue, which involves the theft of confidential documents in a lead paint case, is the subject of a Sherwin Williams lawsuit in Ohio against the firm.

In response to written questions from Arizona Senator Jon Kyl in May 2010, Mr. McConnell told the committee he wasn’t very involved in the lead paint case, was not familiar with the documents in question and had no reason to believe he’d be one of the defendants in the Ohio lawsuit. In deposition testimony in September 2010, however, his memory was suddenly refreshed: He was the first lawyer in his office to review the documents, signed a brief which incorporated portions of them and even helped write an article about the information.

Read the editorial.

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