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Paula Corbin Jones, Janet Reno, Monica Lewinsky and Susan Webber Wright. Contrary to popular belief, President Clinton hasn’t had much luck with the women in his life. Four of them played key roles in his being sued for sexual harassment, investigated, impeached and cited for civil contempt. So it seems fitting that one more will lead the charge toward his final humiliation. Little Rock, Ark., lawyer Marie-Bernarde Miller was appointed on June 7 by the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Committee on Professional Conduct to pursue its disbarment recommendation against Clinton. She discarded the dry language of the committee’s original announcement and on June 30 filed a scathing complaint against the president. The filing, in Pulaski County Circuit Court in Little Rock, rests on the 32-page memorandum opinion handed down last year by U.S. District Judge Wright, in which she found Clinton in contempt for misleading the court about his sexual involvement with Lewinsky. The complaint stems not only from Wright’s contempt citation, but also from an earlier complaint that was lodged by the Atlanta-based Southeastern Legal Foundation. Miller, however, omitted the broader charges made by the conservative group in favor of a narrow approach. The only exhibit attached to the complaint was Wright’s opinion. “The conduct of Mr. Clinton found and adjudged by Judge Wright in the Order, was motivated by a desire to protect himself from the embarrassment of his own conduct,” Miller wrote. On July 5, Circuit Court Judge Leon Johnson, a Republican appointee, was chosen by lot to hear the case. Four Democratic judges had recused themselves, citing ties to Clinton. As of July 6, Johnson had yet to accept the assignment. SMALL WORLD Arkansas is a small world when it comes to lawyers. The selection of Johnson, an ex-public defender and private practitioner, is due in part to Miller’s successful effort last year as special counsel to Arkansas’ judicial conduct committee. The body investigated charges of check-bouncing, nonpayment of taxes and unauthorized practice of law by former Circuit Judge Morris Thompson. Thompson was removed from the bench by the Arkansas Supreme Court on June 2, and Johnson was chosen by Republican Governor Mike Huckabee to serve the remainder of his term, which expires on Dec. 31. Miller, 48, is a 1983 law graduate of the University of Kansas in Lawrence and a shareholder at Little Rock’s Gill Elrod Ragon Owen Skinner & Sherman. A former social studies teacher and member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy, she served under then-Governor Clinton as a deputy prosecuting attorney in 1988 and as an assistant attorney general in 1989. She began work as a special prosecutor for the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission last year. Strategically, her complaint, Neal v. Clinton, No. 2000-5677, turns on the fact that not only did Clinton and his lawyers fail to challenge Wright’s 1999 contempt citation or seek an extension of time in which to respond to it, but they also simply paid the $90,000 in attorney fees and court costs without challenge. The implication, says Southeastern Legal Foundation President Matt Glavin, is that the president has conceded his guilt. “She included Judge Wright’s contempt order because that is a final order that can no longer be litigated,” he says. “The president can no longer argue that he hasn’t lied under oath.” Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz says that Glavin’s theory is “preposterous.” “One can refuse to [appeal] for all kinds of reasons. I’ve never heard of a situation where a such an order would become res judicata,” says Dershowitz. “Even if he did lie for purposes of contempt, [Clinton's lawyers] can argue that the criteria for disbarment are different.” Clinton’s lead lawyer, David Kendall, a partner at Washington, D.C.’s Williams & Connolly, was unavailable for comment. He has 30 days from the filing to respond or seek a delay of the proceedings. Legal ethics expert Howard W. Brill, a University of Arkansas law professor, says that Miller has left the president little wiggle room. “She has filed a disbarment action based solely on what happened in front of the judge,” he says. “It is simpler, cleaner, quicker and avoids the issues that divided the nation for a year and a half.” The only remaining issue, he says, will be the proper sanction. HIGHER STANDARD? Clinton is accused of violating Arkansas Model Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(c), which bars dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation by a lawyer; and Rule 8.4(d), which bars behavior prejudicial to the administration of justice. Previous Arkansas cases involving attorneys who lied under oath invariably ended in only reprimands and suspensions. But Glavin and Brill argue that commentaries to the state ethics code create a higher level of responsibility for lawyers who hold public office. The key question, says Brill, is whether the circuit judge, and eventually the state Supreme Court, will decide that the higher requirement applies to Clinton despite that fact that, during the Jones deposition, he was not acting in his capacity as president. Supporters of Clinton say that the disciplinary committee is wrong to hold him to a higher standard. Glavin contends that “lawyers holding public office assume legal responsibility going beyond” other lawyers. And Glavin finds some support in the law. The commentaries to the Model Code sections under which Clinton is charged say that “lawyers holding public office assume legal responsibilities going beyond those of other citizens. A lawyer’s abuse of public office can suggest an inability to fulfill the professional role of attorney.” In determining the appropriate sanction, the committee was required to review 13 statutory factors that, Prof. Brill says, the circuit court and state Supreme Court may return to when deciding whether to disbar the president. Those factors include the degree of misconduct, the seriousness of the circumstances, the damage to the profession and whether the conduct was intentional. Many deal with harm to a client, an issue that has no bearing on this case. But the factors were established in 1998 as part of an overhaul of the state ethics code, and Brill says that “there isn’t much precedent since the factors are so new. We’re making new law here.”

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