ABA says McConnell qualified for federal judgeship

John O'Brien Apr. 2, 2010, 10:35am


CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) - The American Bar Association believes Rhode Island plaintiffs attorney Jack McConnell is qualified to be a federal judge, though at least one of the 12 voters felt differently.

Three on the 15-member panel that grades presidential appointments for federal judgeships abstained from voting on McConnell, and either one or two members voted McConnell not qualified.

Last month's voting results showed a substantial majority (at least 10) of the 12 said McConnell was qualified, the second-highest of three possible ratings. One or two voted not qualified, and none voted well-qualified.

Sixteen of Obama's 25 nominees in 2010 have received the well-qualified rating. Of his 54 total nominees, McConnell is one of only four who have received not qualified votes.

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed recommended McConnell, of Providence, a year ago. McConnell has contributed more than $25,000 to their senatorial campaigns over the years, and gave Obama $4,000 in 2008.

"Jack McConnell is a brilliant legal mind and an outstanding community leader. We believe he possesses the experience, intellect, and temperament to be a great judge on the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island," a statement released by the senators said.

"He has gotten strong support from both sides of the aisle in Rhode Island and we hope his confirmation will proceed smoothly."

All totaled, McConnell and his wife Sarah have given $46,500 to current Democratic senators this century, not counting donations to national party organizations that helped Democrats get elected to federal positions.

McConnell represented the State of Rhode Island in unsuccessful litigation against the former manufacturers of lead paint. Whitehouse, then the attorney general, hired the firm to file suit in 1999.

McConnell was also a member of the litigation team that brought suit against tobacco companies on behalf of states, resulting in the $246-billion, 46-state Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1998.

After Whitehouse left the Attorney General's Office, the McConnells pumped $12,600 into his campaign fund. Whitehouse took office in 2007.

Since 2001, the McConnels have given Reed $13,200, including $8,800 for his 2008 re-election campaign.

Outside of Rhode Island, the McConnells have supported 11 other senators since 2000. They are:

-Minnesota's Al Franken, who received $1,000 for the Franken Recount Fund in 2008;

-New Mexico's Tom Udall, to whom the McConnells gave $3,000;

-Washington's Maria Cantwell, to whom the McConnells gave $4,200;

-Connecticut's Chris Dodd, to whom the McConnells gave $1,000;

-Pennsylvania's Bob Casey, to whom the McConnells gave $500;

-Florida's Bill Nelson, to whom the McConnells gave $3,000;

-Washington's Patty Murray, to whom the McConnells gave $2,000;

-Nevada's Harry Reid, to whom the McConnells gave $1,000;

-Indiana's Evan Bayh, to whom the McConnells gave $1,000;

-New York's Chuck Schumer, to whom the McConnells gave $1,000; and

-Michigan's Debbie Stabenow, to whom the McConnells gave $3,000.

Sarah McConnell also gave $10,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2008.

Among members of the Obama administration, the McConnells gave $12,000 to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in 2004 for his Senate campaign, as well as $8,000 to Chief of Staff and former Congressman Rahm Emanuel in 2003.

The ABA says it evaluates candidates on their professional competence, integrity and judicial temperament and does not consider ideology or political philosophy in any evaluation.

The Senate Judiciary Committee may take the ABA's evaluation into account when it discusses a nominee's qualifications.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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