News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Northeast Ohio Medical University

Levin Furniture

Knight Foundation


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Courts and Crime


Colleagues say the woman who would keep it all on track is suited to the task
Federal Judge Sara Lioi is already keeping a tight hold the tiller as the Dimora trial gets underway
by WKSU's TIM RUDELL


Reporter
Tim Rudell
 
United States District Court Judge Sara Lioi (left) receives a hug as she presents Tinh Thi Thanh Truong her naturalization certificate on stage, along with 34 other new citizens, at a Constitution Celebration naturalization ceremony held at the Akron-Summit County Public Library on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011 in Akron, Ohio. The Akron Bar Association co-sponsored the event with the Akron-Summit County Public Library. (Paul Tople/Akron Beacon Journal)
Courtesy of Akron Beacon Journal
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

The Cuyahoga County corruption case is one of the biggest in Ohio history: hundreds of charges against more than 50 defendants.

The centerpiece of that case -- larger-than-life Jimmy Dimora-- went on trial last week. A thicket of TV satellite truck masts and scores of onlookers took their places outside the Seiberling Federal Building in Akron. The trial had been moved there to try to ensure it won’t be skewed by sentiments about the former commissioner on his home turf.

And that move put it in the hands of U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi. WKSU’s Tim Rudell has more on the woman who is charged with keeping order until a jury finishes its job as much as three months from now.

Click to listen

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (3:27)


(Click image for larger view.)

The Cuyahoga County corruption case is one of the biggest in Ohio history with hundreds of charges against more than 50 defendants.

The centerpiece of that case—larger-than-life Jimmy Dimora—went on trial last week. A thicket of TV satellite truck masts and scores of onlookers took their places outside the Seiberling Federal Building in Akron. The trial had been moved there to try to ensure it would not be skewed by sentiments about the former commissioner on his home turf, thus putting it in the hands of U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi.

Sara Lioi was appointed a federal judge in 2007, just a year before FBI agents began documenting Jimmy Dimora’s comings and goings and taping his personal phone calls. Part of that record revealed that Dimora did not spend much time in his office.

An unapologetic workaholic
Lioi, in contrast, rarely left work. Before her federal appointment, she was a Stark County Common Pleas judge – and was often the last one out of the county courthouse. One-time law clerk and now Cleveland area attorney Brodie Butland says he and others respected the pace and adjusted to it.

“The parties in front of her have real issues, and real needs, and in her view, it is important to get the case right,” he says. “So she works extremely hard to make sure that she is faithfully applying the law, and the parties are getting a fair shake,…and it was contagious.”

Retired Stark County Judge Richard Reinbold says Lioi’s management of her courtroom is what qualifies her most to handle a trial like this one. Reinbold recounts that when defense attorneys attempted to move the Dimora trial from Cleveland to Akron, they expressed concern about the trial becoming a circus to which Lioi remarked, “‘Trust me, Mister, it is not going to be a circus in my courtroom.’”

Although Reinbold’s a Democrat and Lioi’s a Republican, Reinbold says those political definitions meant nothing in Lioi’s court. He says she takes a conservative approach – tough sentencing and conservative with the civil side of docket – but is fair in her rulings, basing them on getting all the information possible.

“Often she has more information than the lawyers before her,” notes Reinbold.

Locally involved 
While the words “demanding and fair” are consistently applied to Lioi, so are “pleasant and considerate.” Away from the courtroom, the 51-year-old with salt-and-pepper hair is a dog lover and enthusiastic supporter of the community organizations in her native Stark County. That includes sitting on the board of the Humane Society, where Executive Director Lou Chriswell says she drove the organization to establish new policies.

“Again I have to stress the fact,” Chriswell notes, “of how she can direct a group of people—and you know we all have different personalities—to all come together. And really work for the common goal…and accomplish.”

Courtroom conduct
Most of the defendants in the Cuyahoga County corruption case have pleaded guilty, but juries convicted two former common pleas judges, Bridget McCafferty and Steven Terry – in Sarah Lioi’s court. At their sentencing, she made it clear that she has strong feelings about violation of public trust – especially by judges. Federal courts don’t allow video or audio taping, but the transcript of her words as she sentenced Terry to 63 months in prison made her emotions clear.

“Being a judge is such a special privilege that his conduct shakes the core of our system of justice in this country.”

Months may pass before the jury’s deliberation comes to a close in the case against Jimmy Dimora. Meanwhile, Judge Lioi is defining her courtroom broadly. She has blocked reporters from tweeting in the trial, and is keeping TV crews at bay; they have been restricted to the sidewalk and from the plaza outside the Akron federal building—all an attempt to ensure no one likens the Jimmy Dimora case to a circus.

Web story by Matthew Meduri 

Listener Comments:

Some of the attitudes attributed to her sound very good. She sounds like she believes she is at court to serve the litigants and that she is careful to apply the correct law to the facts which she tries to make sure she has down correctly. Nobody could argue with that. I am not sure what a conservative approach to a case, criminal or civil, really is. The approach, to me, should be what she said it was; the law applied to the facts. Get the facts down right and make sure you apply the correct law. There does not seem to be anything conservative or liberal about that. I guess she did not claim to be conservative on the law, others did. She just essentially claimed she was there to serve the litigants. Judge Battisti used to say that too and he meant it. I Judge Lioi means it too.


Posted by: Dan Roth (Cleveland) on November 23, 2013 5:11AM
Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook




Stories with Recent Comments

Ohio's attorney general rejectsthe latest proposal to legalize marijuana
i think the ag launguage is money hes talking about drug companies must pay him more than responsible ohio can

PBS documentary chronicles the fall of Saigon through new footage and stories
Hi, Does anyone know the number - in the pbs special "Last Days of Vietnam" documentary, of how many Vietnamese were evacuated? Please e-mail me the answer. T...

Protest planned at tomorrow's FirstEnergy meeting
The problems of the poor and downtrodden have nothing to do with First Energy. They are the result of Republican legislators who consistently reduce taxes on th...

Ohio bill would help smaller communities with LGBT discrimination laws
Do we not try and have rights for all individuals equally? On the HUD list of "preferred" candidates who get "special consideration" it states that: For purp...

Ohio likely will continue with two types of police academies
Wake up people your wanting a Harvard law school education for a job that may pay a little over the poverty level. I don't know anyone who could support a wife ...

Police Week's ties from NE Ohio to D.C.
The men and women in blue who risk their lives everyday to serve and protect us....and this is as much recognition and appreciation that NPR/WKSU feels to offer...

First in a Series: How charter schools got a foothold in Ohio
If the interest where in education and there would be oversight of taxpayer dollars, charter schools would be okay. However, Charter School in Ohio are purely f...

Near West Theater raises the curtain at its new home with 'Shrek the Musical'
When I heard you were doing an article about the Near West Theater, I was very excited, because I had seen the lobby artwork in process on the floor of the arti...

Northeast Ohio pastors want to talk reform with Akron-based FirstEnergy
It's great that this First Energy bailout request is getting media coverage. First Energy is asking to be allowed to NOT find the best costing energy to sell us...

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University