- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2000

President Clinton Thursday asked the Arkansas Supreme Court disciplinary unit to delay disbarment hearings over his conduct in the Paula Jones case until a month after he leaves office.
"We have filed today with the Arkansas Committee on Professional Conduct an application for an extension of time for the president to respond, until 30 days after he leaves office," said a statement lawyer David E. Kendall released just a few hours before Thursday night's deadline to respond.
State rules for disciplining lawyers allow "an extension of reasonable length" but the organization that filed the complaint 18 months ago said it has already waited too long.
"The rules allow for a reasonable extension of time to respond. The president's request is outrageous and unreasonable," said Matthew Glavin, president of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, who promised a renewed fight before the state high court if the committee agrees to wait until late February 2001.
He said Arkansas rules require that any extension of time be granted within the 30-day response period, which ended last night, and that if more time were not granted the panel must immediately distribute ballots and vote on the case.
"If the committee tries to drag its heels and not make a decision they put themselves in jeopardy of contempt of court," Mr. Glavin said.
Other sources said the request itself created a delay to allow time for a decision.
The complaint filed by the foundation in September 1998 charged Mr. Clinton obstructed justice and lied under oath in the Jones case. It was buttressed by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright's April 12, 1999, order holding the president in contempt of court.
Mr. Clinton did not dispute the contempt charges in court.
Details of Thursday's request were filed under seal with the committee and Mr. Kendall did not respond to questions about the legal basis he cited to justify such a long delay.
James Neal, executive director of the committee, which is an arm of the court, did not return calls seeking comment on the president's filing, but he has maintained that secrecy rules bar him from discussing the case.
State lawyer-discipline panels take a dim view when accused members do not respond to complaints.
When Richard M. Nixon did not respond to New York Bar inquiries after resigning his office and rebuffed attempts to serve papers on him by mail and sheriff's deputy the state Supreme Court construed the silence "as an admission of the charges and an indifference to the attendant consequences."
New York proceeded without Mr. Nixon's answers and quickly disbarred him, effective Aug. 9, 1976.
"Obstruction of the due administration of justice while holding the highest public office of this country warrants disbarment," the New York court said in a vote with only one dissent from a justice who objected that Mr. Nixon's initial offer to resign his license was rebuffed solely because it was not in the precise form required.
Two of the many potential arguments Mr. Kendall may have cited in asking for more time were:
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its May 27, 1997, decision in William Jefferson Clinton vs. Paula Corbin Jones that a president had no blanket immunity from timely civil process, but said courts must show "high respect" for the office in scheduling and grant requests for "delay not immoderate in extent and not oppressive in its consequences if public welfare or convenience will thereby be promot-
Independent counsel Robert Ray's declaration this week that he would postpone his decision on whether to prosecute Mr. Clinton until after he leaves office on Jan. 20, 2001. Since related offenses could be involved in both the disbarment proceeding and any prosecution, a lawyer generally would advise a client such as Mr. Clinton to avoid substantive comments on the underlying facts until there was no chance of criminal jeopardy.
Mr. Glavin declined to address those issues directly but ridiculed the idea that a president who could attend seven fund-raisers and spend a day in California raising political contributions for the Democratic Party was not too busy to answer such serious complaints.
"If I were his lawyer, I'd advise the president to surrender his license to practice law," Mr. Glavin said.
But two weeks ago, on Feb. 29, Mr. Clinton paid his $100 annual dues required to stay in good standing as a member of the Arkansas Bar.
Although the professional conduct committee's internal processes are secret, and Mr. Neal told the court in December he was following procedure, the first formal notice a complaint was served on the president came just this week in a letter saying a postal receipt showed it was accomplished Feb. 15.
That complaint was sent out after a Jan. 27 court order told the committee to act on the foundation's complaint, particularly in view of Judge Wright's order describing the scope of Mr. Clinton's misconduct before her in the Jones case.
"Our procedures mandate that the committee accept and treat as a formal complaint any writing signed by a judge of a court of record in this state," the Supreme Court reminded its committee.
"By asking for delay, the president of the United States is requesting that we put the public interest second and his personal interest first," Mr. Glavin said. "This is about protecting the public's interest in a system free from lawyers who lie under oath and obstruct justice."

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