McConnell sworn in in RI as newest federal judge

By Laura Crimaldi
Associated Press / June 27, 2011

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PROVIDENCE, R.I.—A new federal judge in Rhode Island has been formally sworn into office.

An investiture ceremony for U.S. District Judge Jack McConnell Jr. took place Monday at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence.

McConnell blew a kiss at the crowd after being helped into a black judicial robe for the first time by his father-in-law, Donald Shea, a retired Rhode Island Supreme Court justice. U.S. District Court of Rhode Island Chief Judge Mary M. Lisi administered the investiture oath to McConnell.

McConnell shed a tear while addressing his three children, John, Maggie and Catherine.

"I have to tell you being called judge is a pretty incredible title, but there's no title of which I'm more proud than being called your dad," he said. He then joked he wouldn't look at his children or wife, Sara, for the remainder of his remarks so he could get through them.

McConnell, a former trial attorney, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a 50-44 vote last month for a vacancy on the three-judge federal court in Providence. The position was left open for four years amid partisan bickering.

Some Republican senators opposed McConnell's nomination, claiming he was biased against business defendants. Rhode Island officials had hired McConnell to help try a high-profile lawsuit against former lead paint companies.

First Circuit Court of Appeals Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson described McConnell's confirmation process as "terribly traumatic." But the lengthy wait mostly served as the ceremony's main punch line.

"Given the momentous nature of this occasion, it would have been my preference to have prepared an address for this assemblage worthy of the occasion. But in view of the dizzying speed of your confirmation, I simply haven't had time," said 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Senior Judge Bruce M. Selya.

McConnell has already started work on federal cases. He was sworn in privately last month and began working immediately.