Jones Appeal Difficult, But Not Impossible
By Pierre Thomas/CNN
WASHINGTON (April 16) -- Judge Susan Webber Wright's sweeping dismissal of Paula Jones' lawsuit makes an appeal extremely difficult -- difficult, but not impossible.
Take, for instance, Jones' claim of emotional distress she says she suffered at the hands of then-Gov. Bill Clinton. "Mr. Clinton exposed himself to me that day," Jones has said.
The idea that such behavior caused Jones no mental anguish might be difficult for a higher court to fathom, says one expert.
"When Judge Wright dismissed the emotional distress claim, it raised concerns among many people that this claim is not unlike the claims of many women who are not arguing employment injury but rather emotional injury," said Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School.
An appellate court might fear that blocking the Jones case from going to trial would have a chilling effect on hundreds of other sexual harassment cases.
But in her ruling Judge Wright found Jones incurred no medical bills and never sought emotional counseling.
In fact, Wright said Jones had no case, not for sexual assault. The judge said, "The conduct as alleged by plaintiff describes a mere sexual proposition or encounter, albeit an odious one, that was relatively brief in duration."
And Wright said Jones had no case, not for sexual harassment. She ruled Jones "has not demonstrated any tangible job detriment or adverse employments action for her refusal to submit to the governor's alleged advances."
That argument may be difficult to overturn on appeal and limits Jones' options, says one sexual harassment expert.
"You have to show you weren't hired, you were fired, you were denied a promotion you should have gotten," attorney Lynne Bernabei said. "They are pretty strict about the kinds of sort of serious detriment you have to suffer in order to make out that kind of claim."
But Bernabei says there is another important factor in the Jones case. Her appeal would be heard by the 8th Circuit, a court that is largely Republican appointed.
That presents a mixed blessing. "It's sort of a unique case in that the Republican judges have been precisely the judges that have been so hostile to sex harassment cases. So in terms of ideology they would be against her. In terms of political, they may be for her," Bernabei said.
In fact, that very court ruled against Clinton, saying he should face the Jones trial while he is still in office.