Published October 01, 2001
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court opened its new session Monday with an order barring former President Clinton from practicing law before the court.
The ruling, found on the last page of the high court's listings for the new session, ordered that: "Bill Clinton of New York, New York be suspended of the practice of law in this court and a rule will issue, returnable within 40 days, requiring him to show cause why he should not be disbarred from the practice of law in this court."
Clinton was traveling Monday, en route to a speaking engagement in Los Angeles after helping daughter Chelsea move into her student quarters at Oxford University in Oxford, England. His lawyer David Kendall said he will show cause why disbarment is not appropriate.
Clinton was admitted to the Supreme Court bar in 1977 but has never argued a case there. Most lawyers admitted there never do, but the right to do so is considered an honor.
The justices didn't give a reason for the action but disbarment before the Supreme Court often follows a disbarment in a lower court since the attorney has lost his license to practice law.
"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 this court, the court will enter an order suspending that member from practice before this court," Supreme Court rules say.
Earlier this year, the Arkansas Supreme Court suspended Clinton's Arkansas law license for five years. Clinton also paid a $25,000 fine as part of a plea agreement with the independent counsel at the end of the Monica Lewinsky investigation.
Clinton is a native of Arkansas and was governor there before he was elected president in 1992. He moved to New York after he left office but has not applied to practice law there.
Should Clinton apply, said Frank Ciervo, a spokesman for the New York State Bar Association, the Arkansas suspension would be honored.
In other business, the court also rejected a request for a new trial by convicted Whitewater partner and former Arkansas governor Jim Guy Tucker.
The appeal was largely symbolic since Tucker already has served an 18-month sentence in home detention for trying to make illegal loans with former Whitewater characters Susan and Jim McDougal. Susan McDougal was pardoned by President Clinton before he left office. Jim McDougal died in prison while serving a three-year term.
Seventeen other lawyers have been disciplined similarly to Clinton, but not all attorneys are unwelcome in the court. Chief Justice William Rehnquist opened the new session with a moment of silence and condolences to the nation's chief attorney, Solicitor General Ted Olson, who lost his wife Barbara on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11.
"In the aftermath of the attacks, we have witnessed extraordinary bravery and compassion from Americans from all walks of life. Let us take a moment to grieve with those who mourn, and honor those who have heroically performed their duty," he said.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.