SCOTUS Vs. POTUS

Bill Clinton headshot
AP
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ordered former President Bill Clinton disbarred from practicing law before the high court.

In a one-sentence order entitled "In the matter of discipline of Bill Clinton," the justices said Mr. Clinton would have 40 days to contest the order.

A Clinton lawyer said the ex-president will argue that disbarment before the high court is inappropriate.

The order likely means the former president could not argue a case before the high court should he ever return to private law practice. Most lawyers who are admitted to the Supreme Court bar never actually argue a case there, but the right to do so is considered an honor.

Although another public humiliation for the former president, the high court's decision will likely have little real impact on Mr. Clinton, says CBS News Legal Consultant Andrew Cohen.

"This should have no practical effect on the former president," said Cohen. "He doesn't practice law in the first place and even if he did the chances that he would have a case before the Supreme Court were very, very remote. This is a slap in the face but won't influence his pocketbook."

Cohen also said the justices' move comes as no surprise.

"When Mr. Clinton lied under oath in front of a federal judge, and when that federal judge held him in contempt, and when he was disbarred in Arkansas, this result was inevitable," said Cohen.

In April, Mr. Clinton's Arkansas law license was suspended for five years and he paid a $25,000 fine. The original disbarment lawsuit was brought by a committee of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

There are no fines associated with the Supreme Court action.

Mr. Clinton agreed to the Arkansas fine and suspension Jan. 19, the day before he left office, as part of an understanding with Independent Counsel Robert Ray to end the Monica Lewinsky investigation.

The agreement also satisfied the legal effort by the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct to disbar Mr. Clinton for giving misleading testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.


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The Supreme Court followed its standard rules in the Clinton case, which include suspending Mr. Clinton from practice in the court and giving him 40 days to show why he should not be permanently disbarred.

The court order did not mention any vote by the justices. Seventeen other lawyers were similarly disciplined.

"Whenever a member of the bar of this court has been disbarred or suspended from practice of any court of record, or has engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the bar of thi court, the court will enter an order suspending that member from practice before this court," Supreme Court rules say.

"This suspension is simply a consequence of the voluntary settlement entered into last January with the Arkansas Bar," said Clinton lawyer David E. Kendall. "Pursuant to the Supreme Court's order, we will show cause why disbarment is not appropriate."

Mr. Clinton was traveling Monday, en route to speaking engagements in Los Angeles after helping daughter Chelsea move into her student quarters at Oxford University in Oxford, England.

Mr. Clinton and the Whitewater prosecutor, Ray, worked out their deal late last year.

Ray promised not to prosecute the president when he left office if Mr. Clinton, in return, would agree to the suspension of his Arkansas law license for a substantial period, lawyers familiar with the meeting said then.

In a related ruling, the Supreme Court refused Monday to give former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker a chance for a new trial in his Whitewater-related case.

Tucker wanted the court to throw out his 1996 convictions for fraud and conspiracy on grounds that a member of the jury was biased.

He did not receive a pardon before Mr. Clinton left office in January, unlike many others investigated by independent counsels. The high court was his last avenue of appeal.

Tucker was convicted in a joint trial with Mr. Clinton's former business partners, James and Susan McDougal. They had been accused of scheming in the mid-1980s to make illegal loans. Susan McDougal received a Clinton pardon. James McDougal died in 1998 while serving a three-year sentence.

Tucker stepped down as governor after his conviction. He has already served an 18-month sentence in home detention, and the appeal is largely symbolic.

He said a woman on the jury that deliberated for eight days before finding him guilty of two counts was improperly influenced by her new husband.

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