This was a vote on confirming John J. McConnell, Jr. to be a U.S. District Judge in Rhode Island. Under the constitution, the president has the authority to nominate individuals for federal judgeships, but a majority of the Senate must vote in favor of their nomination in order for them to be sworn into office.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) urged support for this nomination: “…The quality I think we all have to look for in a person, who is sitting in judgment of complicated civil cases, serious criminal cases, but ultimately cases involving men and women, is that they feel that this person understands them and will be fair to them, regardless of whether they are a large corporation or a poor person before the district court. I am convinced Jack McConnell will do that--impartially, deliberately, and carefully. These are the qualities he has exemplified throughout his career. Jack enjoys strong support and broad support throughout the state of Rhode Island, and it is a reflection of his work not just as an attorney but as a civic leader. I have heard from members from the business community, the Rhode Island judiciary, the legal community, Republican and Democratic elected officials, members of the clergy, as well as individuals from Rhode Island's nonprofit sector and academic sector.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) opposed this nomination: “I am convinced you would have trouble looking your constituents in the eye and telling them you believe Mr. McConnell would be fair to all litigants in his courtroom and, in this case, especially businesses that may be sued for money damages, as he did throughout his legal career. In fact, Mr. McConnell, during the Judiciary Committee deliberations, described his legal philosophy by saying: `There are wrongs that need to be righted and that is how I see the law.' That doesn't cite any applicable legal standard. It doesn't actually take into account law as we know it, just wrongs he believes need to be righted….Given his tendency to view lawsuits against businesses as a movement against societal injustice, it is difficult to see how Mr. McConnell could put those personal views aside and give all litigants in his courtroom a fair trial, a right which they are guaranteed under our Constitution and laws. I believe a vote to support Mr. McConnell's nomination is a vote to create yet another court where trial lawyers will repeatedly prevail in frivolous litigation against American businesses. That is something we ought not allow.”
The Senate confirmed McConnell’s nomination by a vote of 50-44. All 50 Democrats present voted “yea.” All 44 Republicans present voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate confirmed John J. McConnell, Jr. to be a U.S. District Judge in Rhode Island.