After a recommendation for disbarment by the Arkansas Supreme Court
Committee on Professional Conduct, President Clinton and his lawyer,
David Kendall, have taken up the defense, saying Clinton should receive
leniency because of his service as governor and president, and arguing
that disbarment is too severe a punishment.
“The only reason I agreed even to appeal it is that my lawyers looked
at all the precedents and they said there’s no way in the world, if they
just treat you like everybody else has been treated, that this is even
close to that kind of case,” said Clinton in an interview on NBC Nightly
Clinton and his attorney, David Kendall, claim that other Arkansas
lawyers have lied under oath and were given lighter sanctions than
disbarment. Clinton said in a written response to the committee —
which made its findings public Monday afternoon — that he should
receive nothing harsher than a letter of reprimand.
L. Lynn Hogue, the Arkansas lawyer who filed the complaint against
Clinton, told WorldNetDaily that Clinton and his lawyer have failed to
properly understand the rules that govern lawyers’ conduct. Clinton
should not be treated “like everybody else,” according to Hogue, because
the rules specifically provide that elected officials must be held to a
stricter standard than other lawyers.
“The president is trying to have it both ways,” Hogue said in a phone
interview yesterday. “On the one hand the president says, ‘I was
governor — look at all I accomplished. I was president — look at all I
accomplished. I should be treated lightly. I should get a consideration
for that.’ Then he turns around and says, ‘Look at the precedents. We
don’t find lawyers getting this serious kind of treatment.’ The problem
is, he is the president,” and must be held to a high standard, explained
A law professor at the University of Arkansas, Hogue is now a
professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, where he is also
counsel for the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a public interest law
The American Bar Association’s “Standards for Imposing Lawyer
Sanctions” is used by the State of Arkansas for determining whether or
not to disbar lawyers, or impose lesser sanctions.
The ABA rules state that disbarment is generally appropriate when a
lawyer engages in “intentional interference with the administration of
justice, false swearing, misrepresentation, fraud … any other
intentional conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or
The ABA rules also deem disbarment appropriate when a lawyer “with
the intent to deceive the court, makes a false statement, submits a
false document, or improperly withholds material information …” or
“… causes serious or potentially serious interference with a legal
“A lying, lawyer-president is capable of extraordinary mischief,”
said Hogue. “That’s what seems to be lost on David Kendall and on the
president’s apologists. It has to do with the fact that when someone in
the presidential bully pulpit engages in lying to a federal judge, and
has that recognized nationally, that it does tremendous damage to the
image of lawyers, to the reputation of the bar, and also to the process
of justice which depends on integrity — on reverence for truth.”
The complaint, which brought Clinton’s right to practice law into
question, came from the Southeastern Legal Foundation in September 1998.
After a long delay during which the committee took no action, the
Arkansas Supreme Court stepped in and forced the process along last
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Webber Wright, who presided over the
Paula Jones sexual harassment case, also filed a complaint against
Clinton after she cited him for contempt of court and fined him $90,000.
“It is not acceptable to employ deceptions and falsehoods in an
attempt to obstruct the judicial process,” Wright’s April 1999 citation
After having been impeached by the House of Representatives, cited
for contempt of court and fined by a federal judge, Kendall has stated
to the media that Clinton has already paid the price for his mistakes
and should not be subjected to further penalties.
Hogue says Kendall is wrong, however, and points to the actual rules
governing disbarment to support his claim.
“The lawyer discipline system is in addition to and serves purposes
different from contempt powers and other mechanisms available to the
judge,” according to the ABA guidelines. “Disciplinary sanctions are
separate and apart from penalties which may be imposed solely for civil
or criminal conduct, or contempt of court,” the guidelines explain.
Contrary to Kendall’s claim that Clinton has been “punished enough,”
Hogue pointed out that the ABA guidelines make it clear that disbarment
is not intended as punishment for a lawyer.
“The primary purpose is to protect the public. Second, the courts
cite the need to protect the integrity of the legal system, and to
ensure the administration of justice,” and to “… vindicate in the eyes
of the public the overall reputation of the bar.”
Hogue said Kendall is wrong to argue that Clinton should receive
consideration for lighter treatment because of his public service as
Arkansas attorney general, Arkansas governor and now as president of the
“The president cannot ask for special treatment on the one hand
because he’s president, and then turn around and demand to be treated
just like any other anonymous lawyer. He’s not any other anonymous
lawyer. He’s the lawyer in the highest office in the land, and that’s
what makes this case more serious,” said Hogue.
In fact, the ABA guidelines support tougher sanctions for lawyers in
elected office, not lighter.
“Cases involving public officials who engage in conduct that is
prejudicial to the administration of justice,” require tougher
sanctions, according to the guidelines.
“Disbarment is generally appropriate when a lawyer in an official or
governmental position knowingly misuses the position with the intent to
obtain a significant benefit …” or when there is “… intent to cause
serious or potentially serious injury to a party or to the integrity of
the legal process,” state the ABA guidelines.
“Where the lawyer sanctioned is particularly prominent, public
identification demonstrates that the system does not play favorites,”
the guidelines point out.
Hogue is concerned that Clinton’s behavior also sets a very poor
standard for other lawyers, and particularly his young law students to
follow. The ABA guidelines agree, stating, “A final purpose of imposing
sanctions is to educate other lawyers and the public, thereby deterring
unethical behavior among all members of the profession.”
Kendall has argued in his response to the committee that Clinton was
not engaged in the practice of law at the time of the infraction. Hogue
points to the ABA guidelines to counter Kendall’s argument.
“The public quite properly expects that anyone who is admitted to the
practice of law, regardless of daily occupational activities, will
conform to the minimum ethical standards of the legal profession,” the
ABA guidelines state.
“The most fundamental duty which a lawyer owes the public is the duty
to maintain the standards of personal integrity upon which the community
relies. The public expects the lawyer to be honest and to abide by the
law; public confidence in the integrity of officers of the court is
undermined when lawyers engage in illegal conduct.”