- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2000

President Clinton concedes in still-sealed court papers that he gave misleading testimony about Monica Lewinsky in the Paula Jones case but argues that he should not be disbarred because his testimony was not technically false.
"Many categories of responses which are misleading, evasive, nonresponsive or frustrating are nevertheless not legally 'false' " such as "literally truthful answers that imply facts that are not true," his attorneys say in an 80-page legal brief under seal since it was filed late last month.
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Webber Wright of Little Rock held Mr. Clinton in contempt of court last year, and said his testimony was "intentionally false."
Mr. Clinton's new argument was made in response to a complaint to the ethics committee of the Arkansas Supreme Court by the Southeastern Legal Foundation, which is seeking Mr. Clinton's disbarment. Yesterday, the Atlanta-based group revealed details of that response as it released its 26-page rebuttal to his argument.
In the response, Mr. Clinton makes his case for a reprimand, not disbarment, according to foundation President Matt Glavin.
Mr. Glavin said at a press conference that Mr. Clinton's attorneys use a review of hundreds of attorney-disciplinary cases in Arkansas to suggest "that a sanction no harsher and perhaps more lenient than a letter of reprimand would be appropriate."
But in calling for "a mere reprimand," the group says in its rebuttal, Mr. Clinton "ignores the plain language of the … most obvious, analogous case of presidential misconduct, that of Richard Nixon."
Mr. Nixon was disbarred by a New York court despite the absence of criminal conviction or impeachment conviction. He resigned before a Senate impeachment trial.
The foundation, which filed its complaint in September 1998, says in its rebuttal that Mr. Clinton "spends the bulk of his 80-page brief attempting to show that his testimony was not 'false' as he defines that term."
"The facts are not in dispute the president lied under oath and obstructed justice, was held in contempt by a federal court judge, and did not appeal that decision all of which run counter to the most basic rules required of those who hold law licenses and the nation's judicial system in their hands," the foundation says.
On April 12, 1999, Judge Susan Webber Wright, holding Mr. Clinton in contempt of court for making "intentionally false" statements under oath in the Paula Jones case, noted that in one famous passage quibbled about what "the meaning of the word 'is' is."
"The court takes no pleasure whatsoever in holding this nation's president in contempt of court," the judge said, but "there simply is no escaping the fact that the president deliberately violated this court's discovery orders, and thereby undermined the integrity of the judicial system."
Judge Wright fined Mr. Clinton $90,000. Her contempt finding automatically sent a second complaint about Mr. Clinton to the Arkansas Committee on Professional Conduct.
Mr. Glavin said the committee is not trying to determine whether Mr. Clinton committed the crime of perjury, but rather trying to determine whether Mr. Clinton violated the American Bar Association's Model Rules.
Under those rules, it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to "engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation" or to "engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice."
Mr. Clinton "acknowledges that he misled the nation, that he misled his family and his friends, that he misled the country," Mr. Glavin said.
He then spends 50 pages "arguing that he didn't commit a crime."
David E. Kendall, the president's personal attorney, yesterday lashed out at the group.
"The foundation isn't interested in issues relating to Arkansas lawyers and legal services, it's just interested in attacking the president in any way it can. Releasing its paper to the public is just another part of the long-running partisan mudslinging campaign against the president," he said.
The foundation says Mr. Clinton's oft-stated admission that he gave "misleading" testimony about his relationship with the former White House intern is grounds enough to disbar him. The private group also argued that Mr. Clinton, as a public official, is subject to more-stringent standards under Arkansas rules of ethical conduct for attorneys.
Mr. Clinton's response is "a pathetic attempt to defend the indefensible," Mr. Glavin said in a telephone interview following his press conference.
In the foundation's rebuttal, the group says Mr. Clinton cites a series of factors hoping to mitigate his punishment, such as the president's "extraordinary commitment to public service" as governor and as president.
Mr. Clinton argues that the Paula Jones suit was a "partisan vendetta." His attorneys say sanctions would have no significant deterrent because they could not compare to the "punitive consequences" Mr. Clinton already has suffered, such as impeachment and the fine for contempt of court.
The foundation says "the president also asserts that lying about sex, in court or out of court, is 'relatively nondeterrable.' "
But the foundation says that misses the point. "The issue here is not sex, or lying about sex," the foundation says in its rebuttal. "It is the failure of the most widely known attorney on earth to uphold the bare minimum standards of conduct required by the Arkansas Supreme Court. All that's left is what is the appropriate sanction."
The ethics committee, which holds its next regular meeting next week, has an array of options. Sanctions range from censure to a disbarment recommendation to the Pulaski County Circuit Court in Little Rock. Mr. Glavin said it is not clear when the committee will make its decision.

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