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Dewine Statement (As Prepared): Nomination Hearing for Judge Sara Lioi

Location: Unknown


Contact: Breann Gonzalez

It is my great honor to introduce fellow Ohioan Judge Sara Lioi to the Members of the Judiciary Committee today. Judge Lioi currently serves in the General Division of the Stark County Common Pleas Court, and President Bush has nominated her to serve as a Federal Judge in the Northern District of Ohio. At this point, I'd like to extend our welcome to Judge Lioi's family and friends who are with her today. There are a number of you here, so let me start with Judge Lioi's mother Rosaria; her sister Mel Lioi, who I should note is the Assistant Superintendent of the Stark County Educational Service Center, and her sister Mary Germann, plus her cousin Helen Garafalo. She also has brought several friends, including Diana Pittman; Judge Mike Howard, from the Stark County Family Court, and Tim and Debby Bentivegna. Thank you all for joining us. I know you must be very proud of Judge Lioi's accomplishments, and of her nomination to the Federal bench.

Judge Lioi has had a distinguished legal career, a career with a breadth of experience and accomplishment that has clearly prepared her to be a successful Federal judge. To begin, she graduated summa cum laude from Bowling Green University in 1983, and she then attended the Ohio State University College of Law and graduated with her J.D. in 1987. Judge Lioi started her legal career as an associate at the law firm of Day, Ketterer, Raley, Wright & Rybolt Ltd. in Canton, OH. She distinguished herself in her principal areas of practice - appellate advocacy and general litigation - and became a partner in 1993. Judge Lioi's colleagues outside the firm also thought very highly of her, and she was elected to serve on the executive committee of the Stark County Bar Association during this time. Her service in the Bar Association was an early indication of her long-term commitment to legal ethics and professionalism, a commitment that has been one of the defining aspects of her legal career. Even before becoming a judge, she served on the Supreme Court of Ohio Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, which is responsible for issuing final recommendations to the Supreme Court on formal disciplinary charges against Ohio's lawyers and judges. It is also responsible for monitoring and assisting the certified grievance committees in the regulation of the legal profession, and for issuing advisory ethics opinions.

Her continuing work in this regard has broadened and enriched her understanding of the legal profession and the responsibilities of the lawyers and judges who make up the bar. Judge Lioi continued as a partner in private practice with Day, Ketterer until 1997, when she was appointed by then-Governor George Voinovich to the General Division of the Stark County Common Pleas Court, which has jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases. Judge Lioi swiftly distinguished herself on the bench, and she was elected to the court in 1998 and then re-elected for a subsequent six year term in 2002.

As a sitting member of the bench, Judge Lioi is known for her extraordinary work ethic and her willingness to put in long hours. Since taking the bench in 1997, she has disposed of over 9,500 cases and has conducted over 350 trials, more than 335 of which were jury trials. As any practicing lawyer knows, and anyone with a legal problem knows, a judge who can efficiently move her docket and conduct trials on a rapid schedule is a tremendous benefit to all of those within the justice system; justice delayed is often justice denied, but Judge Lioi helps avoid that problem by making sure that people have their day in court, and have it in a timely way.

Judge Lioi, however, is just as productive outside the courtroom as in it, and has continued to be involved in issues of legal ethics and professionalism.

She became a member of the Supreme Court of Ohio Board of Commissioners on Character and Fitness in 1996, and was appointed as Chair of the Board in 2002 - a position she still holds today.

This is an extraordinarily important position, because the Board is responsible for reviewing the cases of applicants who are seeking to become licensed to practice law in Ohio and for approving applicants to sit for the bar examination.

From 2003-2006, she also served as a member of the Supreme Court of Ohio Task Force on Rules of Professional Conduct. This important Task Force was dedicated to conducting a comprehensive review of Ohio's current legal ethics rules and standards, the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct, and the legal ethics rules promulgated by other states. The Task Force recently completed its work on the rules and submitted a proposal to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which adopted the new rules on July 18, 2006, based upon the Task Force's recommendations.

Clearly, Judge Lioi believes strongly in the importance of maintaining high standards of professionalism, civility, and ethics, and she has worked towards achieving those important goals. In addition to her numerous activities, she has delivered speeches and presentations to various civic organizations and other groups on matters such as the state court system, judicial ethics, and the role of the judge in our system of government. Judges, lawyers, and law students have heard her speak on topics such as professionalism, legal ethics, and character and fitness standards. Her dedication to these issues is something we unfortunately don't see enough of nowadays.

Judge Lioi has also demonstrated a strong commitment to her community. She has served as President, First Vice President, and Director for Community Services of Stark County - a non-profit organization involved in a broad range of community activities. She has also served on the boards of more non-profit organizations than I can name here. For some of these organizations and agencies, she provided pro bono legal services during the time that she was in private practice. Not surprisingly, those who know Judge Lioi regard her with respect and admiration. Attorneys who have worked in her courtroom - both Democrats and Republicans - speak of her glowingly, describing her as "bright," "conscientious," "fair," "impartial," and "ethical." She is known as a judge who treats everyone who appears before her courteously and with respect. That is the sort of judicial temperament that we hope for and expect from our judges. And, not surprisingly, the ABA has given her a unanimous rating of "well-qualified," which is the highest rating they give. For all of these reasons, Sara Lioi is well-suited to be a Federal judge. She has the character and intelligence that we want to see in a Federal judge. She is hard-working, dedicated, and understands the role of a judge in our system of government. She is an excellent judge, and, just as important, is the kind of person whom we can trust with the great responsibilities that come with being a judge. I was proud to recommend her nomination for the United State District Court in the Northern District of Ohio, and I am gratified that President Bush has nominated her for that position. I believe that she will serve admirably as a Federal judge for the people of Ohio.

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