May 4, 2011

U.S. Senate Votes to Advance Jack McConnell’s Nomination to Federal Judgeship

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate today voted 63-33 to advance the nomination of attorney John J. “Jack” McConnell toward an open seat on the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island. After he is confirmed and sworn in as Rhode Island’s newest federal judge, McConnell will provide much needed help in taking on a heavy case load of important matters before the District Court in Rhode Island.

United States Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, who recommended Mr. McConnell’s nomination to President Obama for nomination, hailed the bipartisan effort to advance Mr. McConnell’s confirmation.

“Jack McConnell is eminently qualified. His experience, intellect, and integrity will make him a great judge on the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island,” said Reed and Whitehouse. “His confirmation will help clear the backlog of federal cases in Rhode Island and improve the court’s capacity to administer justice. We congratulate Jack McConnell and his family on this momentous day.”

Jack McConnell was born in Providence and received his undergraduate degree from Brown University and his Juris Doctorate from Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Mr. McConnell is a prominent attorney and outstanding member of the community who is well known for his pro bono work and for successfully leading the historic tobacco settlement case which helped aid public health and prevent more young people from smoking.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island is the state’s federal trial court that has jurisdiction to hear nearly all categories of federal cases, including both civil and criminal matters.

The seat McConnell will fill has been vacant for over two years and was last held by Judge Ernest C. Torres, who retired from the federal bench altogether in March of 2009, leaving just two federal judges on the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island: Chief U.S. District Judge Mary M. Lisi and District Judge William E. Smith, along with active U.S. Magistrate Judges Lincoln D. Almond and David L. Martin.

According to the Associated Press, as of March 2011 there were 2,500 civil cases and 205 criminal cases pending in Rhode Island. The delay of Mr. McConnell’s nomination recently forced Rhode Island federal district judges to reassign more than 25 cases to courts in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

McConnell was confirmed by a bipartisan majority of the Judiciary Committee three times before he was granted a vote by the full Senate. During the unsuccessful filibuster of Mr. McConnell’s nomination, only a handful of Republicans actually spoke out against him for a few moments, even though they forced a cloture vote, a process that requires a two-day waiting period before a vote can occur and a 60 vote threshold to overcome.

Now that cloture has been invoked, the full Senate is set to approve his final nomination, but Republicans may force up to 30 hours of floor time to be used before final passage. If that were to occur, the vote would likely happen tomorrow at about 7 p.m., but the final vote could come as soon as later today.


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