OSPRI files Public Records Request on AG and lead paint co-counsels

In October of 1999, Rhode Island filed a controversial lawsuit against paint manufacturers with the novel theory that they were presently creating a “public nuisance” by selling lead-based paint in 1978. The RI Supreme Court eventually found that the allegations against the manufacturers were insufficient to establish liability for “abatement” of a “public nuisance”.

The participation of co-council John McConnell and his firm Motley Rice in earlier tobacco and asbestos public interest cases certainly made some wonder if pushing the boundaries of the law was more about lead poisoning or lawyers fees. 

But some 6 years into this litigation and before that ruling by the RI Supreme Court, one of the defendants, Dupont, struck a deal with Attorney General Patrick Lynch and contingent counsel to be removed from the list of defendants. The ‘Dupont Deal’ was announced simultaneously by Patrick Lynch and John McConnell. 

Attorney General Lynch announced, and McConnell confirmed, that legal fees for the ‘Dupont Deal’ had been waived. However, McConnell’s co-counsel, Leonard Decof challenged this assertion saying, “there are two questions . . . Is it a settlement, and was a fee paid.” His son Mark crowed that their claim that the Dupont funds paid to Brigham and Women’s in satisfaction of a pledge by Motley Rice were de facto legal fees was “shining the light” on the ‘Dupont Deal’ 

Contrary to its auspicious beginnings, and a week before the deadline set by Senator Reed for expressions of interest in federal judgeships, Decof quietly settled his claim without revealing any details. 

“This might all be water over the public’s dam,” said Brian Bishop, Director of the Founders Project at the Ocean State Policy Research Institute (OSPRI), “but McConnell was recommended for a federal judgeship by Rhode Island’s Senate delegation that includes Sheldon Whitehouse who first signed the unique and unconstitutional contingent fee agreement with McConnell’s firm that was later amended so the litigation could continue.”

“Now that McConnell’s nominations is under review in the Senate, we think it important they try to find out what happened in the ‘Dupont Deal’, a task that has frustrated or co-opted everyone else who has tried.” 

To further this effort, the Founders Project is today filing Access to Public Records requests for a record of fees paid to attorneys, directly, indirectly or ‘in-kind’, from the ‘Dupont Deal’ and other documentation. 



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