Tag: John Cornyn

Senate Confirms Contingency-Fee Lawyer for Federal Bench

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed John “Jack” McConnell to the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, voting along party lines, 50-44.

McConnell’s confirmation was made possible when 11 Republicans earlier joined the Democrats in a 63-33 vote to invoke cloture. Those votes should be seen as a statement on the confirmation process, that is, trying to dial back the partisan conflict that afflicts consideration of judicial nominees.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who voted for cloture but against confirmation, made the case this way:

[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.

Flawed is a gentle description. McConnell is probably the worst judicial nominee that President Obama has put forward.
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One Trial Lawyer Who Should Not Be a Federal Judge

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday moved for a cloture vote on the nomination of John “Jack” McConnell to be a judge on the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island. McConnell has no judicial experience, but he did make millions the state tobacco lawsuits, transforming hundreds of thousands of dollars into political contributions.

McConnell was drove state’s egregious public nuisance suit over lead paint against paint manufacturers, in which then-Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse farmed out the litigation to McConnell’s firm, Motley Rice, on a contingency basis. The Rhode Island Supreme Court unanimously rejected the suit in 2009.

A vote on cloture could happen as soon as Wednesday, but opposition from Senate Republicans and business is determined.

UPDATE (4:50 p.m.): Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) releases a blistering “Dear Colleague” letter opposing cloture on McConnell’s nomination. Excerpt (via the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform): (continue reading…)

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The Absence of Tort Reform in the Health Care Debate

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) raised the issue of medical malpractice reform with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) during Saturday’s Senate floor debate of H.R. 3590, the Senate Democratic leadership’s health care bill. On medical malpractice, the Senate bill has only a “sense of the Senate” resolution encouraging states to consider liability demonstration projects. At best, it’s an acknowledgment the issue exists.

The McCain-Alexander exchange, seemingly scripted, starts on page S11953. Here’s part of the exchange:

Mr. ALEXANDER. There has been a lot of talk this week about medical care availability for women in America. In Tennessee, in 45 of our 95 counties, there are no OB/GYN doctors. So pregnant women in Tennessee in those counties have to drive 50, 60, 70 or 80 miles for prenatal health care. They might have to check into a hotel for a few days in a big city in order to have their baby.

Mr. McCAIN. Could I add, the mirror opposite of that is the State of Texas which was hemorrhaging medical doctors and care providers and then, after they enacted a very modest malpractice reform, there was a flood of physicians returning to the State of Texas. Isn’t that the case?

Mr. ALEXANDER. That is exactly right. In fact, a number of us have offered to the Senate, as a part of the way we would go about reducing health care costs, basically adopting the same kind of provisions they did in Texas which still leaves anyone who is hurt, a complete right to recover from that injury, but makes a major change in the availability of doctors to that patient. And in the case of Tennessee, we were talking about OB/GYN doctors to women who are about to have babies. The Senator from Arizona said that would save at least $54 billion over 10 years. No one doubts that reform of medical malpractice, junk lawsuits against doctors, would reduce costs. The point we are trying to make here is, instead of that historically arrogant 2,074-page bill that presumes we know enough to change every aspect of health care in America, why don’t we re-earn the trust of the American people, who have lost a lot of confidence in those of us in Washington, and start taking steps in the right direction to reduce cost? We could do it by adopting our legislation to reduce unwarranted medical malpractice suits. That would be one step.

Rep. John Cornyn (R-TX) discussed the Texas reforms at a talk last Tuesday at the Heritage Foundation.

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Examining the Need for Transparency in Class Actions

An editorial in The Examiner today praises Sen. John Cornyn’s bill, S.3033, the Securities Litigation Attorney Accountability and Transparency Act.

The Cornyn bill responds directly to the core Lerach/Weiss abuses (giving illegal kickbacks to clients) and also provides for greater transparency and consistency in the judicial certification of plaintiffs. It further directs courts to establish competitive bidding by attorneys in most class-action cases, and encourages the U.S. Comptroller General to publish regular studies of how much money successful class-action attorneys make per hour.

The legislation also requires disclosure of all campaign contributions from winning attorneys to elected officials were are in a position to influence the selection of counsel for class-action plaintiffs.

The Examiner has been an editorial workhorse on the topic of civil litigation reform, reflecting the views of its owner, Colorado investor Philip Anschutz, cleverly dubbed a “media wildcatter” by BusinessWeek back in 2005, and ably represented on the opinion pages by editors Mark Tapscott and Quin Hillyer. Good things going on at The Examiner, too, including a new Sunday edition beginning July 13. Also, today is the first day at The Examiner for Mary Katherine Ham, who will oversee the paper’s upcoming, reworked website, dcexaminer.com.

So, more profile for tort reform issues. Good all the way around and congrats to The Examiner.

Crossposted from Point of Law.

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