Justices Refuse Starr Critic's Case

Tuesday, February 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court refused Tuesday to revive a case alleging that former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr had conflicts of interest in the Whitewater investigations and abused his office by publicly urging then-President Clinton's impeachment.

The court did not comment in turning down a Starr critic who sought an independent investigation of Starr's conduct.

An Arkansas federal judge threw out the case last year, and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concurred.

Connecticut lawyer Francis Mandanici, a frequent Starr critic, sought an investigation of Starr's handling of a criminal contempt case against Whitewater figure Susan McDougal and Starr's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee regarding Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

He claimed Starr wanted McDougal to give false testimony against the president and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mandanici also claimed Starr had conflicts of interest because of previous legal work and his ties to conservative financier Richard Mellon Scaife.

Former Starr targets Stephen A. Smith and Julie Hiatt Steele later joined Mandanici's 1999 complaint.

U.S. District Judge John F. Nangle said he found Mandanici's claims baseless, and added that Mandanici might merit discipline and sanctions himself for violating a court order on press leaks.

Mandanici asked the Supreme Court to decide if the federal appeals court acted correctly when it allowed his case to be dismissed. He argued the judge's mention of possible sanctions threatened his reputation and gave him additional reason to pursue the case.

In so doing, Mandanici cited the Supreme Court's historic Bush v. Gore case as a legal precedent.

Mandanici pointed to the reasoning of the five-member majority in granting then-candidate Bush's request for a temporary halt in ballot recounts last Dec. 9.

``In effect the court ruled that if the recount had first showed that Bush lost and then this court subsequently overturned that recount, Bush's reputation and standing as the duly elected president would suffer irreparable damage,'' Mandanici wrote.

If the potential damage to one man's reputation was enough reason for the court to act, then the alleged damage from Nangle's reprimand should also move the court to get involved, Mandanici argued.

Starr left the Whitewater office in 1999. His successor, Robert Ray, reached a deal with Clinton on Jan. 19, the day before Clinton left office. In return for admitting he made false statements under oath during the Lewinsky investigation, Clinton was spared possible indictment and Ray ended the six-year, $55 million Whitewater investigation.

The case is Mandanici v. Starr, 00-1037.