Thursday, February 6, 2003

Nominee: Rule of law guides me


By Liz Sidoti
The Associated Press

Jeffrey Sutton appears before the U.S. Senate committee considering his nomination. He's argued both sides of death cases.
Associated Press photo

COLUMBUS - Four years ago, Jeffrey Sutton helped prosecute the state's first inmate to be executed in 36 years. Now, he's defending a convicted killer scheduled to die this month.

Sutton, a conservative Republican attorney and nominee as a federal judge, is doing what lawyers do - representing a client regardless of personal view, say observers.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is considering Sutton's nomination to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Democrats say Sutton tried to limit federal civil rights protections and gut or weaken protections for state employees with disabilities and older workers.

The Columbus lawyer argued successfully in a Supreme Court case in 2000 that Congress exceeded its authority by permitting state workers to sue their states under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Sutton told the committee last week that he has represented all types of people and organizations - including murderers - but that doesn't mean he agreed with his client's views.

"I'm trying very hard to show you that I would be an objective judge and that the client I would have is ... the rule of law, not a former client," he added.

Sutton is a partner in the Columbus law office of Jones Day, which has defended killer Richard E. Fox since the mid-1990s. Sutton took over Fox's case a few years ago.

From 1995 to 1998, Sutton worked as the state solicitor for the Ohio Attorney General's Office. Sutton was not directly involved in most death penalty cases but was on the team of state attorneys that prosecuted Wilford Berry, who was executed in 1999.

Sutton has done a good job on the Fox appeal, raising pertinent issues and not using delay tactics, said former Attorney General Betty Montgomery, who is now state auditor.

"He's following the finest tradition in the lawyering profession, which is to be able to ensure that the system works justly," she said.

Duties of the 6th Circuit court include ruling on death penalty cases from four states.

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