How Much Does A Federal Judgeship Cost?…


William A. Jacobson
Legal Insurrection

Just ask Jack McConnell, who appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

McConnell has been nominated by Rhode Island Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (for whom McConnell used to work) and Jack Reed for an open seat on the U.S. District Court in Rhode Island.

McConnell made a fortune in the tobacco lawsuits, which settled for billions but put little money in any smoker’s pocket. Instead, states like Rhode Island pocketed the funds, which were supposed to be used for anti-smoking efforts, but actually were used to plug budget gaps.

McConnell used his fortune to ingratiate himself with Democratic Party leaders through enormous campaign contributions…

…McConnell’s firm was hired to represent the State of Rhode Island by Sheldon Whitehouse, who was Attorney General at the time the lawsuit was started. The lawsuit later, based on an unusual use of the “public nuisance” legal theory, was thrown out by the Rhode Island Supreme Court as lacking any legal basis.

As noted today by The Washington Times [“McConnell nomination should sink like lead”]:

Left on the hook were Ocean State taxpayers, who had to pay the $242,000 in legal fees for the paint companies vindicated in the case. There’s no reason why Mr. McConnell, the political wheeler-dealer lawyer who took those taxpayers on such a wild ride, should be given a lifetime position as a federal judge.

There is a long history of giving Ambassadorships to large campaign contributors. And political connections always have played a role in judicial nominations.

But the McConnell situation is an extreme. No one can say with a straight face that McConnell would have been nominated if not for his campaign contributions.

A lifetime federal judgeship should not go to the highest bidder.

Read the whole thing at Legal Insurrection.

Professor William A. Jacobson is an Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Cornell Law School, Ithaca, NY and a native of Rhode Island.

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