A full 17 months after the initial complaint was filed, a notice of pending disbarment was delivered to President Bill Clinton yesterday — the first time such action has been taken against a sitting president.
Notification that a formal complaint has been served on the president was delivered to the Southeastern Legal Foundation by the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct.
On Sept. 15, 1998, Arkansas attorney L. Lynn Hogue filed a formal complaint requesting the committee disbar Clinton on behalf of the Foundation, which was reported by WorldNetDaily.
That complaint was based on Clinton’s untruthful testimony in the Paula Jones case. Later the determination by federal District Court Judge Susan Webber Wright was added to the complaint. The presiding judge in the Jones case, Wright issued a civil contempt citation for Clinton’s misrepresentations under oath.
Clinton did not appeal the citation, and so there is no question of fact in the ethics violation, according to Matthew Glavin, Southeastern Legal Foundation’s president.
The citation issued in April 1999 states in part: “It is not acceptable to employ deceptions and falsehoods in an attempt to obstruct the judicial process.”
The citation also mentioned an even higher standard expected of President Clinton because of his position. Wright added that the president’s “conduct in this case, coming as it did from a member of the bar and the chief law enforcement officer of this Nation, was without justification and undermined the integrity of the judicial system.”
This marks the first time in U.S. history that a sitting president has been made the subject of formal professional ethics violations. According to Arkansas rules, the president will have 30 days from receipt of the complaint to respond.
“This we know — the most public of Arkansas attorneys lied under oath and obstructed justice, undermining both the necessary public confidence on which the rule of law depends and the necessary professional integrity which safeguards the profession of law,” said Glavin. “When a lawyer violates his professional oath, lies before a court of law and obstructs justice, that lawyer must be held accountable, and now that process can begin.”
The Committee on Professional Conduct issued its formal complaint to the President in response to an order from the Arkansas Supreme Court. Although the committee director, James Neal, had claimed previously in court documents that he had the right to decide to do nothing with the complaint, the Supreme Court disagreed and ordered him to proceed.
Although WorldNetDaily tried unsuccessfully many times to reach Neal at his office for comment, he was contacted finally at the American Bar Association Midyear Meeting at the Wyndam Anatole Hotel in Dallas, Texas.
Regarding the reasons for the delay of the Clinton case, Neal would only say, “I have no comment that I could make.”
Asked to explain the sequence of events that would govern the processing of the case as well as the likely time frame involved, Neal said, “I’ve done that hundreds of times. I’m sorry I just don’t have any comment to make.”
As to his role in the process, Neal answered, “I’m the director of the committee. I’m a staff person,” noting that the Arkansas Supreme Court appointed him more than 10 years ago to the full-time position, during Clinton’s tenure as governor.
After insisting his past association with Clinton had no bearing on the case, Neal refused to comment further and hung up.
There are seven members of the committee who will soon vote on disciplinary action against Clinton. A review of political donation records reveals several have strong connections to Clinton and the Democratic Party.
According to several campaign databases searched by WorldNetDaily, three committee members have made contributions, which Glavin says may indicate a conflict of interest.
Attorney Richard Reid, attorney Bart Virden, and Dr. Patricia Youngdahl were found on the donation lists.
Youngdahl and her daughter were overnight guests in the Clinton White House after making donations to the Clinton campaign and to the Democratic National Committee.
If Youngdahl, Reid, and Virden recuse themselves from the case, alternate committee members will be asked to fill in.
A search by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reveals that two alternate committee members have also made donations. David Solomon and Dick Hatfield each made direct donations to both of Clinton’s presidential campaigns.
In all, more than 30 donations by members of the legal review body, totaling over $16,000, were found on the records.
Asked if committee members who made donations should recuse themselves from the case, committee member attorney Kenneth Reeves told WorldNetDaily, “I think they will all do the right thing.”
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that committee members Solomon, Hatfield, and Virden do not plan to recuse themselves from the case.
“I find that somewhat remarkable,” Glavin told WorldNetDaily. “These are people we know already have an interest in Bill Clinton’s career. These are people who have an interest in his legacy. The president is planning on building a library in his home state of Arkansas and they don’t want to tarnish his image any farther than the president has already tarnished it.”
Yet he said the members of the committee have a responsibility to the public — not to Bill Clinton.
Other committee members could not be reached, or did not return calls.
The committee has not yet seen the complaint, according to Reeves, and would not see it until it was time to act on it. He said the complaint has been in the hands of Neal and the office staff and officially the committee doesn’t even know it exists.
Glavin told WorldNetDaily that the way Arkansas law is written, committee members should have taken action on their own without the formal complaint submitted by Glavin’s foundation.
Reeves agreed that committee members have a responsibility to act if they are aware of a possible violation of rules by an attorney, and had no explanation as to why no one on the committee took action when Clinton received the citation from Wright.
Clinton now has 30 days to respond, although he may ask for an extension. Reeves said he has not seen many requests for extensions in his nine years on the committee.
Once a response is received from Clinton, the committee will forward a copy to Hogue for rebuttal. He will have 10 days to respond.
All information on the case will then be sent to the committee members for a vote. They can do nothing, issue a reprimand, suspend Clinton’s license for a period up to two years, or disbar him.
Glavin said he thinks Clinton will decide to voluntarily surrender his license to avoid the stigma of disbarment.
President Richard Nixon was brought up on ethics charges in both California and New York after he resigned from office. Although he surrendered his license in California, New York law did not permit him to do that there, so he was disbarred, explained Glavin.
“I think Clinton is thinking of his legacy, and if he is, he is probably going to try to avoid disbarment and voluntarily surrender his law license,” Glavin predicted.
“If he is disbarred, then it’s going to be even more difficult for him to raise money to build his library. It’s going to be more difficult for him to maintain a legacy. In addition to being the first sitting president to be impeached, he will be the first sitting president to be disbarred. He doesn’t need that, because that would be the second paragraph in his legacy. I think he’s going to want to avoid this, but you never know,” said Glavin.