Former AG nominates plaintiffs lawyer for federal bench

John O'Brien Apr. 16, 2009, 12:31pm


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Legal Newsline) - A member of a major plaintiffs firm has been recommended for a federal judgeship by the former Rhode Island attorney general who hired the firm to sue the paint industry.

U.S. Sen Sheldon Whitehouse, the state's attorney general from 1999-2002, and Sen. Jack Reed have nominated Motley Rice attorney Jack McConnell for the federal bench, a report in the Providence Journal says.

McConnell had represented Rhode Island in the first state-powered lawsuit brought against the former manufacturers of lead paint. Whitehouse filed it in 1999.

"It's sort of surreal," said McConnell, according to the report.

"It's just incredible the confidence they've put in me. I'm almost speechless. ... I pray I do them justice."

The article also notes his political generosity, having given tens of thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Reed, Whitehouse and President Barack Obama, who will have the final say in who fills the federal vacancy.

Motley Rice represented Rhode Island on a contingency fee in the lawsuit against the former manufacturers of lead paint, which was outlawed in 1978. It alleged the companies created a public nuisance by making lead paint.

Sherwin-Williams, Millennium Holdings and NL Industries were found liable in 2006 , but on July 1, the state Supreme Court unanimously overturned the Superior Court verdict.

The 1999 suit resulted in a mistrial, the second (filed by current Attorney General Patrick Lynch) in the verdict against the three companies. It was the longest civil trial in state history.

After the mistrial and while Whitehouse prepared to leave office in 2002, McConnell contributed $1,000 to Lynch's election efforts.

In Lynch's next campaign, McConnell gave him $2,000. In between, in Lynch's non-election year of 2004, McConnell still gave him $2,000.

Several similar suits brought by cities in Ohio were dismissed, and new Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray voluntarily dismissed the State's.

Other suits have failed in Wisconsin, Missouri, Ohio and New Jersey.

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