Clinton Moves to keep law license

Monday, May 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — In an effort to keep his law license, President Clinton has argued that his testimony in the Monica Lewinsky case was ``not false as he defines that term,'' according to court papers filed by the conservative group that is seeking revocation of his license.

Clinton's lawyer has declined to make public the president's legal brief to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which must decide whether Clinton can keep his state license allowing him to practice law.

But the Southeastern Legal Foundation made public today its rebuttal to the president's argument, and characterized his 80-page filing submitted in secret several weeks ago.

Matt Glavine, an official with the Atlanta-based foundation, said Clinton's filing argues against revocation and contains language that ``suggests that a sanction no harsher and perhaps more lenient than a letter of reprimand would be appropriate.''

The group, however, argues the president's admissions during his impeachment provided enough evidence that he misled courts in the Lewinsky matter to warrant revocation.

``The president is no ordinary Arkansas lawyer. Rather, he is the president of the United States of America and, as such, is held to the model rules requiring the higher ethical standard for attorneys who hold public office, even those who may become litigants or defendants,'' the group's brief said.

David Kendall, the president's personal attorney, was not immediately available for comment today, his office said.

The group noted that U.S. District Court Judge Susan Webber Wright fined the president for contempt for false testimony about Lewinsky in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.

In her 1999 ruling, Wright cited 10 alleged lies by the president that ``no reasonable person would seriously dispute.'' The Southeastern Legal Foundation seized on her 1999 conclusions, as well as Clinton's own admission he misled people during the Lewinsky affair.

``First, the president frankly admits the conduct at issue. Second, the allegations are findings of fact by a federal judge in a fully and fairly contested litigation as well as by the Congress in impeachment proceedings,'' the group said.

The group described Clinton's Arkansas Supreme Court filing this way: ``President Clinton spends the bulk of his 80-page brief attempting to show that his testimony was not 'false' as he defines that term.''

The group countered that the American Bar Association rules for professional conduct ``proscribe misleading conduct'' as the standard and do not even use the words ``false testimony.''

``While it is true as the president asserts in his response, that 'charges of false testimony under oath with possibly penal consequences are a serious matter,' the matter before this committee does not deal with perjury by litigants as that term is used in criminal law but rather misconduct within the applicable standards for lawyers,'' the group argued.

To further its case, the group cited the president's legal filings from the impeachment trial as evidence he has already admitted to being misleading.

``What the president did was wrong. ... The simple moral truth (is) that his behavior in this matter was wrong. ... He misled his wife, his friends, and our nation about the nature of his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky,'' the filing said, quoting one of the president's impeachment filings.

The Southeastern Legal Foundation in Atlanta filed the first complaint seeking revocation of Clinton's Arkansas law license on Sept. 15, 1998.

A second complaint arose automatically under state law when Wright found Clinton in contempt of court on April 12, 1999, for lying about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, the former White House intern.

Both complaints focus on Clinton's statements about Lewinsky in the Jan. 17, 1998, deposition in the Jones case.

Wright cited Clinton for civil contempt rather than criminal contempt, thus preserving the authority of the Office of Independent Counsel, now headed by Ken Starr's successor, Robert Ray, to pursue criminal charges against Clinton later if Ray chooses.