Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yeah, That Guy Isn't Qualified to Be a Federal Judge, Why He Was a . . . . . . a Plaintiff's Attorney!

John "Jack" McConnell

Sen John Cornyn
Carter Wood writing at the Point of Law blawg writes approvingly of Sen. John Cornyn's letter denouncing the Obama administration's nomination of John "Jack" McConnell to the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island. Wood reports that "[Senator] 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."  The following excerpt from Senator Cornyn's letter is taken from Wood's blawg post which he credits to the Institute for Legal Research:

"[Nominee 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."
Wow, what a hit job by Senator Cornyn.  I didn't realize that being a pioneering mass tort attorney disqualified a lawyer from becoming a federal judge.  But gee, when you look at Senator Cornyn's background you might think he, especially, knows what he's talking about being a former Texas attorney general, Texas Supreme Court justice, and former U.S. District Court judge.  Then bear in mind, philosophically, where Senator Cornyn comes down on alot of issues; this is from Wikipedia:

"In the 2004 debate surrounding the Federal Marriage Amendment, [Senator] Cornyn released an advance copy of a speech he was to give at the Heritage Foundation. In the speech, he wrote, 'It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right... [N]ow you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife.' He removed the reference to the box turtle in the actual speech, but the Washington Post ran the quote, as did The Daily Show.

Cornyn sponsored a bill that would allow law enforcement to force anyone arrested or detained to provide samples of their DNA, which would be recorded in a central database.  He voted to recommend a constitutional ban on flag desecration and for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. He also voted for the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act and extending its wiretap provision. He is rated "A" by the National Rifle Association. Cornyn said on December 20, 2005: 'None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead' in a speech supporting reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act."

Now, I'm not saying that Senator Cornyn is a right wing whack-job, but then again, yes, I am.

More importantly, just because a lawyer represents unpopular causes, doesn't disqualify the attorney form holding a federal judgeship. 

While not analytically the same thing it might be useful to look at the the situation involving the recent collective outrage over Paul Clement's departure from King & Spalding.  The legal blawgosphere--right and left--is in agreement praising Clement's decision to resign from his law firm, King & Spalding.  Clement is a former Bush Administration Solicitor General.  King & Spalding decided not to continue representation by partner Clement of the unpopular Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA;) Clements was representing the Republican House leadership supporting DOMA's constitutionality against outcries in the Gay and liberal communities.

Some one please tell Senator Cornyn.  'Thought he knew about unpopular causes, guess not.

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