Senator McConnell’s Disqualifying Conflict of Interest

Photo – Shealah Craighead via ZUMA


I have been called to jury duty three times in my life, but I have only served on one jury. The first time I was called for duty, I was seated on a case in which an employee sued a large corporation for not providing appropriate compensation and credit for a process the employee had developed and submitted through the company’s employee innovation program. The employee’s original idea was adopted by the company and saved the company a significant amount of money. The employee won the case easily.

The next two times I was called for jury duty, I was not seated on a jury. One instance of not being seated was likely owing to being a professor of ethics with a public record of writings that one side in that particular case thought might have biased me against them. In the other instance, a criminal case, I recognized that the defendant’s lawyer was a former student of mine, and even though I think I could have been a fair juror in the case, I reported my relationship to the defense attorney to the judge and was removed from the panel.

The point I am attempting to make here is that there are times when being a juror is appropriate, but there are other times when relationships, conflicts of interest, or potential bias make it inappropriate to serve on a particular jury.

One very clear case of a disqualifying conflict of interest would be If my spouse were employed by a person who was on trial. There is no way I would ever be allowed, nor should I ever be allowed, to be on the jury of a trial in such a circumstance of clear conflict of interest and potential bias. No objective observer would consider it appropriate for me to serve as a juror in such a trial, and I would rightly be judged harshly if I did not report this clear conflict of interest.

Being a juror in such a case would simply be wrong, and it would be even more inappropriate to be in a situation where I was not only a juror in such a case but also in a position to influence who testifies and how the proceedings of the trial would take place, yet this is precisely the role Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, will play in Trump’s trial. Senator McConnell’s spouse is employed by and owes her job in the President’s Cabinet directly to Trump. A U.S. Senator in this situation with any integrity would recuse oneself from participating in the trial of the President.

Given the patriarchy of the time in which our Constitution was written, perhaps the founders did not foresee the possibility of the Senate Majority Leader (a position not created by the Constitution), or any U.S. Senator for that matter, having a spouse who is employed in the President’s Cabinet, and thus did not think about the implications this might have for a trial of the President in the United States Senate following impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives. The conflict of interest that Senator McConnell has is glaring, and he must not be allowed to serve as juror and as one who has a position of influence over the proceedings of the upcoming trial of our current president. Senator McConnell clearly does not have the integrity to recuse himself, but the American people must not allow his clear conflict of interest and his inappropriate participation as juror to go unchallenged.

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About Mark Y. A. Davies

Mark Davies is the Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and Director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. He is the Executive Director of the Leadership, Education, and Development (LEaD) Hub North America of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church and an Oklahoma Humanities State Scholar. Mark has published in the areas of Boston personalism, process philosophy and ethics, and ecological ethics. Dr. Davies serves on the United Methodist University Senate, which is “an elected body of professionals in higher education created by the General Conference to determine which schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools meet the criteria for listing as institutions affiliated with The United Methodist Church.” He and his wife Kristin live in Edmond, OK in the United States, and they have two daughters. The views expressed by the author in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of Oklahoma City University or the United Methodist Church.
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