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John J. McConnell, Jr.

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John McConnell
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Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island
Title:   Judge
Position:   Seat #2
Appointed by:   Barack Obama
Approval vote:   50-44
Active:   5/4/2011 - Current
Preceded by:   Ernest Torres
Personal History
Born:   1958
Hometown:   Providence, RI
Undergraduate:   Brown University '80
Law School:   Case Western Reserve University '83

John J. McConnell, Jr. is a federal judge on the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island.

Federal judgeship nomination

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. [1] Obama said of the nomination, "I am honored to put forward [this] highly qualified candidate for the federal bench." [2]

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. [4][5]

Judiciary Committee hearing

Public Questionnaire Available Here
Questions for the Record Available Here

McConnell had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 13, 2010. He 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." [6]

Senator Orrin Hatch expressed concern over McConnell's average-to-low ratings from the American Bar Association. [6]

Nomination opposition

The United States Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, among other groups, are opposed to McConnell's nomination. [7] They cite his career as a trial lawyer to suggest he is biased against business defendants. [8][9][10] 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." [6]

Nomination returned to President

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.[11] The President renominated McConnell on September 13, 2010. The nomination must be reheard by the Senate Judiciary Committee before going to the full Senate for a vote.[12]

Nomination resubmitted

On September 13, 2010, President Obama again submitted McConnell's nomination to the U.S. Senate. [13]

On September 23, 2010, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-6 to send McConnell's nomination to the U.S. Senate for a vote. [14][15]

Nomination returned to President

McConnell's nomination was returned to the President at the end of the 111th congress.

Nomination resubmitted

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.[16]

Personal life

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]

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

Judge McConnell was nominated by President Barack Obama on January 5, 2011, to a seat vacated by Judge Ernest Torres. He was then confirmed by the Senate on May 4, 2011, and received commission the next day.[17]

Notable cases

Awards and associations

  • Chairman of the Board for the Trinity Repertory Company
  • Vice-Chair for Crossroads Rhode Island
  • Chair of the Providence Tourism Council [2]

See also

External links


  1. White House Press Release "Presidential Nominations Sent to the Senate", March 10, 2010
  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. Providence Journal "A mixed review for R.I. nominee", March 12, 2010
  5. LegalNewsline "ABA says McConnell qualified for federal judgeship", April 2, 2010
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 The Providence Journal "Nominee to federal bench in R.I. gains ground at hearing", May 14, 2010
  7. Rickard "McConnell is Unqualified to Sit on the Federal Bench in Rhode Island", May 26, 2010
  8. The Providence Journal "R.I. judicial nominee haunted by business accusations of prejudice", May 13, 2010
  9. Associated Press "Business Groups Oppose Ri Judicial Nominee", May 11, 2010
  10. The Providence Journal "Business groups oppose Rhode Islander’s nomination to federal judgeship", May 12, 2010
  11. United States Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, Judicial Nomination Materials: 111th Congress
  12. The Providence Journal, "R.I. attorney John McConnell renominated to federal judgeship," September 13, 2010
  13. The White House, Press Release: "Presidential Nominations Sent to Senate," September 13, 2010
  14. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, September 23, 2010
  15. Providence Journal:7 to 7 "Senate panel recommends McConnell again", September 23, 2010
  16. The Associated Press, "RI lawyer confirmed as US judge; GOP block fails", May 4, 2011
  17. Judge McConnell's biography at the Federal Judicial Center
Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Ernest Torres
District of Rhode Island
Succeeded by: