- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2000

President Clinton will be severely disciplined for violating lawyers' standards of behavior, if many of the nation's prominent lawyers and top legal ethicists have a say.
But they don't.
The decision rests solely with a Little Rock, Ark., circuit court judge who will hear arguments on an official recommendation that Mr. Clinton be stripped of the right to practice law. The recommendation was handed down Monday by the Committee on Professional Conduct of the Arkansas Supreme Court.
The judge has several options, but no precedent to follow.
Never before has a president been hauled before bar officials on charges of lying under oath while testifying in a private matter before a federal judge, as Mr. Clinton is accused of doing.
The famous incident occurred two years ago when Mr. Clinton was deposed in the sexual-misconduct case brought by Paula Corbin Jones. At that time, the president denied having a sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky.
Now the Arkansas judge must decide if giving false testimony in such a situation merits voiding the president's license, suspending him from practicing for months or years, reprimanding him or dismissing the recommendation entirely.
But that last option is "intolerable," says William Hodes, a former law professor and author of a standard textbook on legal ethics. Mr. Hodes now practices as a consultant specializing in cases dealing with ethics violations.
He says, "This case is an extremely big deal. It's not just about Mr. Clinton. It's about the integrity of the legal system."
Many agree, including Robert Bork, the former law professor, circuit court member and 1987 nominee to the Supreme Court who is now ensconced at the American Enterprise Institute.
Said Mr. Bork, "This is the worst kind of crime for an attorney. When an attorney interferes with the process of the court and justice, it strikes directly at the entire system of justice."
In the days since the disbarment recommendation was reported, lawyers across the country have been debating whether Arkansas' action is justified and what alternatives to disbarment would be appropriate if any.
"I can confirm there's been a lot of interest and lively discussion," says Kathleen Clark, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. Miss Clark, another specialist in legal ethics, reports that in a vigorous Internet debate limited to the nation's many legal scholars, "There's not much disagreement whether Mr. Clinton deserves discipline. The argument is what is appropriate."
Miss Clark points out that there is "no one-to-one relationship regarding what sanction is to be given for which violation" of professional conduct.
Indeed, that's clear from reviewing previous Arkansas disbarment cases.
Last year, for instance, the Arkansas court revoked the law license of Perlesta A. Hollingsworth for "misappropriating to [his] own use" some $100,000 of a client's funds.
Yet some years earlier, the court suspended the license of Wali Muhammed for just a year when he purloined an undisclosed amount of money from another law firm. It suspended Sam W. Weems for three years when he endorsed client "settlement checks" without authorization and stashed the money in his own account. And for lying on his tax returns and "willfully and knowingly … evading payment of taxes," the court lifted the license of Guy Hamilton Jones Sr. for one year.
The sanctions that bar members contend are appropriate in Mr. Clinton's case vary wildly, too.
Harvard law school professor Alan M. Dershowitz contends in an interview, "Mr. Clinton should be reprimanded, that's all." The president's attorneys say the same, claiming that similar cases in which lawyers were caught lying under oath earned no more than a reprimand.
Yet Mr. Hodes says, "Mr. Clinton's extremely serious offense warrants a very long suspension." And Mr. Bork, along with legal scholars Walter Berns, Daniel Troy and others are calling for disbarment. As Mr. Troy insists, "Justice Susan Weber Wright made the case for disbarment when she found the president in contempt for false testimony in the Paula Jones matter."
Some in Congress and elsewhere have contended the quest to disbar the president is simply another foul political move and that Mr. Clinton has suffered sufficient sanction by being subjected to an impeachment trial.
But few argue the disbarment case against the president should be dismissed. Even Mr. Dershowitz says there must be some sanction "so the bar can send the message that such conduct should not be condoned."

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