- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 30, 2000

President Clinton told an Arkansas judge yesterday that disbarring him for lying in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit would be too severe a punishment, and that he was too busy being president to appeal a federal contempt citation.
"On the basis of the relevant facts, the governing law [and Arkansas court precedents], a sanction of disbarment would be excessively harsh, impermissibly punitive, and unprecedented in the circumstances of this case," Mr. Clinton said in answering the formal complaint that the Arkansas Supreme Court disciplinary committee filed June 30.
"In Arkansas bar disciplinary cases which do not involve the practice of law or a felony conviction, the sanction of disbarment has historically been regarded as disproportionately severe and has not been imposed," Mr. Clinton argued to Pulaski County Circuit Judge Leon Johnson.
Mr. Clinton conceded he lied in a January 1998 deposition about his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky but said in yesterday's filing his statements were innocuous, "motivated in part by a desire to protect himself and others from embarrassment."
In arguments reminiscent of his grand jury investigation and impeachment proceedings, Mr. Clinton said his misconduct was not serious because the underlying Jones lawsuit "was wholly lacking in merit."
He also said his testimony was not material to core issues in the case, and an $850,000 cash settlement more than compensated Mrs. Jones, who claimed Mr. Clinton exposed himself and made crude sexual advances in 1991 when she was a state employee working at an official function in a Little Rock hotel.
The next step in the case would be for Judge Johnson to decide whether to allow both sides to file full argument briefs and resolve the complaint without open hearings, or order the less-likely option of calling witnesses and rehashing the Jones-Lewinsky sex-and-lies scandals in open court.
Judge Johnson, a Republican who agreed to hear the case after four other Arkansas judges recused themselves, is expected to dispose of the matter before leaving the bench at the end of this year.
He said he expected yesterday's filing but would not discuss any hearing or trial schedule.
Any decision he makes is virtually certain to be appealed to the state Supreme Court in a process that can take years.
Mr. Clinton's response was challenged last night by Matthew J. Glavin, head of the Atlanta-based Southeastern Legal Foundation that requested the disbarment, supported by the contempt citation from Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright of Little Rock, who levied fines and costs totaling $90,686.05.
"They acknowledge that he did it with the intent to deceive the court," Mr. Glavin said, contending the court that must finally decide the issue recently declared its rule.
"Just two years ago, the state Supreme Court said 'There simply is no place in the law for a man or a woman who cannot or will not tell the truth, even when his or her own interests are involved,' " Mr. Glavin said, reading from a Nov. 9, 1998, ruling in the case of Randall M. Schoschet.
"The president's contention that the sanction is too harsh is utterly nonsense. The American Bar Association suggests that disbarment is precisely the appropriate sanction for this behavior," Mr. Glavin said in an interview, quoting ABA rule 6.11 in recommended standards for lawyer sanctions.
The ABA standard says in part: "Disbarment is generally appropriate when a lawyer, with the intent to deceive the court, makes a false statement, submits a false document, or improperly withholds material information… ."
Mr. Clinton's criminal defense lawyers, David E. Kendall and Nicole K. Seligman of Williams & Connolly in Washington, filed the answer in response to the "complaint for disbarment" lodged by Lynn Williams, litigation counsel for the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct, and Marie-Bernarde Miller, a private lawyer hired by the committee to prosecute the case.
The complaint briefly restated the facts of the Jones case, as recited in Judge Wright's contempt order, and asked the court to take away the law license Mr. Clinton has held since Sept. 7, 1973.
The president's four-page reply denied virtually every accusation, even those included in the federal contempt order that he did not appeal, and in which he paid the fine.
"Mr. Clinton neither requested a hearing, nor did he appeal the order," Miss Miller said in her complaint, which said the president's conduct "was motivated by a desire to protect himself from the embarrassment."
Mr. Clinton acknowledged the desire to avoid embarrassment, but denied "serious misconduct" or any breach of legal ethics.
His lawyers conceded his failure to request a hearing or appeal the order, but said, quoting a letter to Judge Wright, that was because "for reasons unnecessary to detail here, the president's time is almost wholly preoccupied with the duties of his office, both now and for the foreseeable future."
They said, "The president and his counsel have in other fora … disputed allegations that he knowingly and intentionally gave false testimony under oath. This position remains unchanged."
Mr. Glavin called such an argument illegitimate.
"He's trying to reargue the contempt citation. It's too late for that," he said. "He chose not to do that. He chose to pay the fine."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide