Canton Repository

December 10, 2006

Partisan squabble keeps Lioi waiting for confirmation

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON Stark County Judge Sara E. Lioi’s nomination to be a federal judge failed to get a Senate confirmation vote before the Senate adjourned for the year on Saturday.

Her nomination to be a U.S. District Court judge for the northern district of Ohio was among a dozen district judge nominations that fell victim to partisan bickering.

That means her nomination is dead, since Congress begins a new two-year session under Democratic control in January.

However, a source knowledgeable about the confirmation process who spoke on condition he not be identified said Lioi is likely to be renominated by President Bush and confirmed next year because district judge vacancies need to be filled.

Lioi, a Plain Township resident who has served as a Stark County Common Pleas judge since 1997, was unavailable for comment Saturday evening.

Bush earlier this year nominated Lioi to be a federal judge, a lifetime appointment. The 40-county judicial district includes Stark, Tuscarawas and Carroll counties.

Plans to vote on a dozen judicial nominees, including Lioi, fell apart last week after Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, objected to a hold placed on a 13th nominee by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.

Brownback put a hold on Janet T. Neff, who was nominated to serve as a U.S. District Court judge in Michigan, after learning she attended a commitment ceremony for a lesbian couple, something he objected to, sources said.

Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for Leahy, said the hold violated an agreement among Judiciary Committee members to go forward on all 13 nominations.

Leahy criticized the hold Friday, saying about Neff, “Can it really be that her attendance at a commitment ceremony of a family friend failed some Republican litmus test of ideological purity, that her lifetime of achievement and qualifications are to be ignored, and that her nomination is to be pocket filibustered by Republicans?”

Leahy will take over as Judiciary Committee chairman in January.

Since the Senate did not vote on the dozen nominees, each of them — including Lioi — would have to renominated next year, approved by the Judiciary Committee and confirmed by the Senate in order to become federal judges.

Lioi’s nomination has not drawn any opposition in the Senate up to now. She won the approval of the then-Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee on Sept. 26.

In the next session of Congress, Lioi will lack the backing of Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Cedarville, who failed to win re-election. DeWine, a champion of her nomination, was able to help her win the approval of the Judiciary Committee because he was a member of the committee.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Cleveland, also supports Lioi but he does not have a perch in the Judiciary Committee to lobby for her approval.