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John J. McConnell, Jr.

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John J. McConnell, Jr
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Current Court Information:
District of Rhode Island
Title:   Judge
Position:   Seat #2
Appointed by:   Barack Obama
Approval vote:   50-44
Active:   5/4/2011 - Present
Preceded by:   Ernest Torres
Personal History
Born:   1958
Hometown:   Providence, RI
Party:   Democrat
Undergraduate:   Brown, A.B., 1980
Law School:   Case Western Reserve U. Law, J.D., 1983

John J. McConnell, Jr. is a federal judge on the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island. He joined the court in 2011 after being nominated by President Barack Obama. Prior to joining the court, McConnell was a private practice attorney in Rhode Island.[1]

Early life and education

McConnell earned his A.B. from Brown University in 1980 and his J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1983.[2]

Personal life

McConnell and his wife have made campaign contributions to Democratic candidates approaching $700,000 over the past 20 years, including almost $160,000 to elect Democrats during the 2008 campaigns. Among other donations, the McConnell's gave a total of $15,500 to the Obama campaign in 2008, $8,800 to Senator Reed's 2008 re-election campaign and $8,400 to Whitehouse’s 2006 election campaign.[3]

Professional career

  • Law clerk for the Honorable Donald Shea of the Rhode Island Supreme Court
  • Private practice at the Providence firm of Mandell, Goodman, Famiglietti & Schwartz
  • Private practice as managing partner with the firm now known as Motley Rice LLC[2]

Judicial career

District of Rhode Island

Nomination Tracker
 Candidate:John McConnell
 Court:District of Rhode Island
 Progress:Confirmed 420 days after nomination.
ApprovedAABA Rating:Qualified
 Vote: 50-44

McConnell was nominated by President Obama on March 10, 2010 to fill a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island vacated by Ernest Torres.[4] Obama said of the nomination, "I am honored to put forward [this] highly qualified candidate for the federal bench."[2]

Support for nomination

McConnell was recommended for nomination by Rhode Island's Democratic senators, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse. In a joint statement Reed and Whitehouse said, "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. He has gotten strong support from both sides of the aisle in Rhode Island and we hope his confirmation will proceed smoothly."[3]

A majority of the 15-member judicial rating committee of the American Bar Association rated McConnell "qualified," with a minority rating him "not qualified" and three members abstaining from the vote.[5][6] McConnell had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 13, 2010. You can find his hearing transcript here.

Opposition to nomination

During his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, McConnell was closely questioned about his background as an "outspoken Democrat" and plaintiff’s lawyer, and whether those things in his past would affect his impartiality on the bench. McConnell responded with a commitment "to impartiality, to fairness and to the rule of law."[7] Senator Orrin Hatch expressed concern over McConnell's average-to-low ratings from the American Bar Association.[7]

The United States Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, among other groups, opposed McConnell's nomination.[8] They cited his career as a trial lawyer to suggest his bias against business defendants.[9][10][11] Several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were dismissive of the Chamber of Commerce's concerns, including Jeff Sessions, who said "I don’t dismiss it lightly, but when you’re involved in litigation of this intensity, sometimes hard feelings can occur."[7]

Return of nomination

On August 5, 2010, the Senate returned the nomination of McConnell to President Obama, refusing to debate and offer a vote before the body adjourned for its month-long recess.[12] The President renominated McConnell on September 13, 2010.[13][14]

On September 23, 2010, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-6 to send McConnell's nomination to the U.S. Senate for a vote.[15][16]

McConnell's nomination was returned to the President at the end of the 111th Congress. President Obama resubmitted the nomination on January 5, 2011. McConnell was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a 50-44 vote on May 4, 2011.[17]

Awards and associations

  • Former Chairman of the Board for the Trinity Repertory Company
  • Chair for Crossroads Rhode Island
  • Former Chair of the Providence Tourism Council[2]
  • Board member, Institute for the Study and Practice of NonViolence
  • Former Board member of Roger Williams University

See also

External links


  1. Official Federal Judicial Center Bio for Judge McConnell
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 White House Press Release "President Obama Nominates Judge Catherine Eagles, Judge Kimberly Mueller and John J. McConnell, Jr. to the United States District Court," March 10, 2010
  3. 3.0 3.1 Providence Journal "Providence lawyer McConnell tapped for U.S. court seat," March 11, 2010
  4. White House Press Release "Presidential Nominations Sent to the Senate," March 10, 2010
  5. Providence Journal "A mixed review for R.I. nominee," March 12, 2010
  6. LegalNewsline "ABA says McConnell qualified for federal judgeship," April 2, 2010
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 The Providence Journal "Nominee to federal bench in R.I. gains ground at hearing," May 14, 2010
  8. Rickard "McConnell is Unqualified to Sit on the Federal Bench in Rhode Island," May 26, 2010
  9. The Providence Journal "R.I. judicial nominee haunted by business accusations of prejudice," May 13, 2010
  10. Associated Press "Business Groups Oppose Ri Judicial Nominee," May 11, 2010
  11. The Providence Journal "Business groups oppose Rhode Islander’s nomination to federal judgeship," May 12, 2010
  12. United States Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, "Judicial Nomination Materials: 111th Congress," accessed April 23, 2014
  13. The Providence Journal, "R.I. attorney John McConnell renominated to federal judgeship," September 13, 2010
  14. The White House, Press Release: "Presidential Nominations Sent to Senate," September 13, 2010
  15. Senate Judiciary Committee, "Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing," September 23, 2010
  16. Providence Journal:7 to 7 "Senate panel recommends McConnell again," September 23, 2010
  17. The Associated Press, "RI lawyer confirmed as US judge; GOP block fails," May 4, 2011 (dead link)
Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Ernest Torres
District of Rhode Island
Seat #2
Succeeded by:

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