Paula Jones Will Get Her Day in Court

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: In the most important decision regarding Presidential privilege since Richard Nixon was ordered to hand over the Watergate tapes, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Paula Jones can immediately pursue her sexual harassment case against President Clinton. Arguing that the Constitution protects sitting Presidents from having to answer civil lawsuits, the White House had sought to have the suit delayed until after he leaves office in 2001. Lawyers for Jones, a former Arkansas state employee who alleges that then- Governor Clinton exposed himself and propositioned her in an Arkansas hotel room in 1991, told reporters they plan to begin deposition within a month to gather documents and witness statements. "The Court has said that there are no special rules for the President; he is a citizen like everyone else," attorney Gilbert Davis said. "All Paula Jones wanted was for her good name and reputation to be restored. She asked for an apology and acknowledgement that she did nothing wrong." Pressure now falls on the President to try to reach a settlement with Jones rather than face a potentially embarrassing deposition in the case. The two sides were close to an agreement two years ago until negotiations collapsed, reportedly over whether Clinton would make some sort of apology. In Paris for Russia's signing of the NATO expansion agreement, the President had no comment. Although his attorney Robert Bennett told reporters a settlement was unlikely, TIME's Karen Tumulty reports that behind the scenes, Bennett is pushing for a deal: "The pressure is mounting on Clinton to settle, and most of that is coming from Bennett himself, who has a history of seeking settlements for his political clients."

American Presidents vs. The Courts

The decision places President Clinton squarely in the middle of a constitutional tug-of-war that U.S. Presidents have fought with the American judiciary since Thomas Jefferson rejected the idea that a sitting President could, or should, be compelled to testify in court. Five recent U.S. Presidents have given testimony in criminal cases. While Presidents Nixon and Reagan testified in courtrooms afterleaving office, Presidents Ford, Carter and Clinton gave videotaped testimony while serving. President Clinton did so in 1996, answering a Whitewater subpoena. In the present case, the Court gave Clinton at least one escape route: the justices gave the federal judge the authority to delay a trial in the Paula Jones matter if it interferes with the Presidentís official duties. Text of Paula Jones' Complaint