Court accepts Clinton resignation

By MICHAEL KIRKLAND, UPI Legal Affairs Correspondent  |  Nov. 13, 2001 at 10:46 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck former President Bill Clinton from its roll of attorneys.

Clinton resigned by letter Friday rather than face automatic disbarment because he received attorney discipline in his home state.

Tuesday, the justices accepted his resignation in boiler-plate language.

"Bill Clinton, of New York, N.Y., having requested to resign as a member of the bar of this court, it is ordered that his name be stricken from the rolls of attorneys admitted to the practice of law before this court."

Clinton was suspended from the Supreme Court Bar on Oct. 1 and ordered to show cause within 40 days why he should not be disbarred. The suspension was automatic following Clinton's deal earlier this year with an independent counsel.

As part of his deal with the independent counsel, Clinton accepted a five-year suspension of his Arkansas law license in exchange for the counsel's dropping any threat of prosecution over the president's misleading testimony in the Paula Jones case.

Supreme Court rules on suspension or disbarment are clear.

"Whenever a member of the bar of this court has been disbarred or suspended from practice in any court of record," the court's Rule 8 says, "or has engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the bar of this court, the court will enter an order suspending that member from practice before this court, and affording the member an opportunity to show cause, within 40 days, why a disbarment order should not be entered. Upon response, or if no response is timely filed, the court will enter an appropriate order."

Clinton's lawyer, Washington attorney David Kendall, initially announced that the former president would dispute the disbarment. But in Friday's letter, Kendall said Clinton "respectfully requests to resign from the bar of this court."

Kendall emphasized that the disciplinary action in Arkansas "did not relate to a criminal conviction or to the practice of law, and occurred in his capacity as a private party in a civil proceeding."

Kendall also made the case that Clinton's treatment was unusual.

"Evidence submitted to the (Arkansas bar disciplinary) committee showed that only four cases, of the 570 disciplinary cases published from June 1985 to April 2000, were of this type. In each of those cases, the committee issued a reprimand or a letter of caution."

The White House announced Clinton's deal on Jan. 19, one day before the president was due to leave office.

By agreeing to publicly admit he gave "misleading and evasive" testimony in the Paula Jones case about his sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and agreeing to a five-year suspension of his Arkansas law license, Clinton avoided what might have been years in court, and millions more dollars added to his already multimillion-dollar legal expenses.

Clinton also agreed not to seek reimbursement of attorneys' fees.

By agreeing to drop any possible prosecution against the president, Whitewater independent counsel Robert Ray also avoided what might have been years in court on a case that even Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he couldn't possibly win.

Before the deal, the multiple-front investigation of Clinton threatened to drag on into its seventh year, blighting the beginning of the new GOP administration and bringing big political risks for the new president. Earlier in January, President-elect George W. Bush publicly called for the Lewinsky investigation to end so that Clinton could "move on."

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