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As Sanction Looms, Clinton Resigns From High Court Bar

Law: The former president could have been prohibited from appearing before the panel because of the Lewinsky scandal.

November 11, 2001|JAMES VICINI | REUTERS

WASHINGTON — Former President Clinton, facing the possibility of being barred from practicing law before the U.S. Supreme Court because of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, has resigned instead, his lawyer said Friday.

"Former President Clinton hereby respectfully requests to resign from the bar of this court," his lawyer, David Kendall, said in a two-page letter to the high court's clerk. Kendall did not elaborate on why Clinton decided to resign.

Clinton's resignation from the Supreme Court bar will have little practical impact. Clinton has not practiced before the Supreme Court and was not expected to argue any cases in the future.

On Oct. 1, the Supreme Court suspended Clinton from practicing before the court and gave him 40 days to show why he should not be disbarred.

On Jan. 19, the day before leaving office, Clinton admitted giving false, evasive statements about his relationship with the former White House intern Lewinsky. Under a deal with the independent counsel, Clinton accepted a five-year suspension of his license to practice law in Arkansas and a $25,000 fine.

The Arkansas suspension triggered the high court case titled "In the matter of discipline of Bill Clinton."

Phil Kent, president of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a conservative group that brought the initial complaint demanding that Clinton lose his law license, expressed vindication.

"Today's decision by Mr. Clinton ensures his place in legal history as the only sitting U.S. president to face disbarment charges and only the second U.S. president to lose his law license," Kent said. Former President Nixon was the other.

Kendall had said in October that Clinton would fight disbarment.

In the letter filed Friday, Kendall said Clinton had been a member in "good standing" of the Arkansas bar for more than 25 years and had never had public or private professional discipline imposed by any bar.

He said Clinton cooperated fully with the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct, furnishing all requested information in a timely manner.

Kendall said Clinton's conduct did not relate to a criminal conviction or to the practice of law. It occurred as a private party in a civil proceeding, he said.

The suspension stemmed from Clinton's answers in response to questions about his relationship with Lewinsky during questioning by lawyers for Paula Jones, who had filed a sexual harassment suit against Clinton.

Kendall said Clinton agreed to the suspension and fine "to avoid the burden of litigation for all parties, to achieve an expeditious and definite resolution and in acknowledgment that his actions merited censure."

Kendall cited statistics showing that only four of the 570 disciplinary cases considered by the committee in Arkansas from 1985 to 2000 were similar to Clinton's.

In those four cases, the committee issued a reprimand or letter of caution, but did not impose suspension or disbarment, Kendall said.

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