Clinton Concerned About Court Ruling (5/28/97)
Next Steps In The Paula Jones Case (5/27/97)TIME: Will She Have Her Day In Court? (1/20/97)
TIME: Class Act (2/3/97)
Green Light For Jones
Unanimous Supreme Court says there is no constitutional barrier to harassment suit against president
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 27) -- The president's lawyer this afternoon dismissed talk of an out-of-court settlement of Paula Jones's sexual harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton and says he is "confident that we will prevail in the case."
A unanimous Supreme Court ruled today that there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that bars Jones' lawsuit from proceeding against the president while he is still in office.
The court said, "Like every other citizen who properly invokes [court] jurisdiction, [Jones] has a right to an orderly disposition of her claims."
The court rejected Clinton's claims that lawsuits against presidents in office violate the separation of powers between the judicial branch and the executive branch.
"Our reaction is that we are going to go forward, we are confident that we will prevail in the case," Robert Bennett, the president's personal lawyer, told CNN. "We do wish that the court had accepted the separation of powers argument, but we are very pleased with much of the opinion, which basically asked the district court to pay great deference to the unique position of the presidency." (160K wav sound)
Clearly elated, Jones' attorneys, Gilbert Davis and Joseph Cammarata, told reporters they are ready to try the case and may want to depose the president. They added the ball is now in Clinton's court to make a settlement offer. (288K wav sound)
The lawyers said Jones' main interest in filing suit is not money, but redeeming her reputation. Davis said an apology or something similar is "essential to any settlement." He said that she did not have a political or any other motive for bringing this case. Cammarata said, "What Paula Jones wants is her good name and reputation restored ... that she did nothing wrong in that hotel room and she is a good person." (288K wav sound)
Though the attorneys said they would subpoena documents and witnesses if they had to, Davis said, "We have every expectation that the president ... certainly is going to be accommodating, as we are, in arranging schedules. I doubt that it's going to be required to subpoena the president."
Davis, Cammarata and Bennett are scheduled to appear tonight on CNN's "Larry King Live" at 9 p.m. EDT.
Clinton's lawyers had also argued that lawsuits would interfere with presidents' official duties, and that permitting Jones' case to go forward would open the way to an avalanche of lawsuits against sitting presidents.
In an opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the court said, "We are not persuaded that either of these risks is serious."
The court's ruling clears the way for Jones' lawsuit to now proceed in a lower court.
But it does not guarantee that the suit will go to trial while Clinton is in office; there may be reasons other than the Constitution for delay. As Stevens wrote, "A stay of either the trial or [pre-trial fact-finding] might be justified by considerations that do not require the recognition of any constitutional immunity.
"The high respect that is owed to the office of the chief executive, though not justifying a rule of categorical immunity, is a matter that should inform the conduct of the entire proceeding," wrote Stevens.
Privately, White House officials say the fact that the court unanimously ruled against the president was a shock. Based on the justices' questions during the earlier hearing, they thought the decision would be close.
The officials say the pressure is now on the president to try to reach an out-of-court settlement with Jones' lawyers. Two years ago, they were close to such a settlement but it ultimately collapsed. Now the price of that settlement, says one White House insider, "has gone up."
But Bennett called a settlement "most unlikely," because, he told CNN, "the president did nothing wrong and will not take any actions or say anything to suggest that the false allegations of the complaint are true. We are just not going to do that, because it would be the wrong thing to do." (480K wav sound)
"We adamantly deny that anything occurred in that hotel room which in any way remotely approximates what's in the complaint," says Bennett. "The president denies the allegations of the complaint, and has no recollection of ever meeting Paula Jones." (288K wav sound)CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Anthony Collings contributed to this report.
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