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Sierra Club’s Carl Pope Defends McConnell Judicial Nomination

Monday, June 07, 2010


This Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled an Executive Session at which it will vote on the nomination, amongst others, of John "Jack" McConnell, Jr. to the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island.  When McConnell gets voted out of the Committee, he then needs approval from the full Senate before becoming confirmed to the federal bench in Rhode Island.

Sierra Club chairman Carl Pope recently took to the pages of the Huffington Post to defend McConnell from a string of coordinated attacks by right-wing organizations.  In comparing McConnell's legal advocacy in support of children poisoned by lead to other judges who spent their careers making millions from the oil and gas industry, Pope writes that, "So, let me get this straight: Lawyers who try to protect children from lead poisoning are unfit to be judges, but judges who will invest heavily in a major polluting industry are fine. And chemicals can be tested for toxicity, but only if they have already been tested and found to be toxic."

Indeed, the criticism of McConnell, coming from the right wing and big businesses, is heavy-handed and unfair.  McConnell has spent his whole career litigating on behalf of the little guy.  He took on the big asbetos companies when workers found themselves poisoned as a result of working with contaminated piping for years.  He took on big tobacco for their decades of deceit and undermining of Americans' health care.  He took on the lead paint companies who knowingly allowed their contaminated paint to be put into homes where children would be exposed to toxins causing them permanent brain damage.  McConnell has been the kind of lawyer we need in the judiciary: someone who has consistently shown compassion, a keen intellect and a deep yearning for justice. 

In addition, McConnell has a long history of community, civic and political involvement - just like many federal judges before him (Judge Selya was campaign manager for Sen. John Chafee and a business litigator; Judge Smith was the former staff director for Sen. Lincoln Chafee and a labor and employment litigator).  McConnell has been chairman of the board of Trinity Repertory Theatre, vice-chairman of the homeless organization Crossroads RI, chairman of the Providence Tourism Council and a leading supporter of his Catholic parish: St. Michael's church in South Providence. 

In a time when judicial nominations have become stalled for months, and in many cases, years, let us hope that the United States Senate has the honesty and the professionalism to allow for a full "up or down" vote on McConnell's nomination.  Republicans demanded as such for President Bush's nominees to the Courts and one ought to hope that they maintain this same judicial philosophy for McConnell.


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