Clinton Served With Ethics Complaints

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

CORRECTION: Corrects year of initial complaint.

1st write-thru

( - William Jefferson Clinton is about to become the first sitting president in US history to be served with two formal ethics complaints - both stemming from his testimony in the Paula Jones case.

Matt Glavin, president of the Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF), said the president is just hours away from receiving the complaints issued this morning by the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct. Glavin tells that one complaint stems from an SLF lawsuit and the other was prompted by the presiding judge in the Paula Jones case, US District Judge Susan Webber Wright.

Clinton, the former attorney general of Arkansas, will have 30 days to respond to the complaints, according to Arkansas court rules, and he faces sanctions that could include disbarment.

In a statement Thursday morning Glavin said, "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."

Clinton's legal troubles escalated after his testimony in the Paula Jones case.

In September 1998, SLF filed a complaint with the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct accusing Clinton of "willful professional misconduct [for] lying under oath in a court of law."

SLF argued that Clinton violated Arkansas rules governing the conduct of attorneys, including acts of "dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation." In February 1999, in an effort to get things moving, SLF wrote to the Arkansas Committee requesting immediate action on the pending ethics complaint against Clinton.

Another pivotal moment came two months later, in April 1999, when Judge Susan Webber Wright -- a former law student of Bill Clinton -- issued a civil contempt citation against President Clinton for lying under oath about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

Said Webber at the time, "It is not acceptable to obstruct the judicial process," and she said that "the President's conduct in this case, coming s 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."

Webber's contempt citation in and of itself was enough to trigger an ethics investigation.

After more legal "nudging," the Arkansas Supreme Court last month ordered the Committee on Professional Conduct to proceed with SLF's complaint "forthwith."

The Southeastern Legal Foundation is an Atlanta-based public interest law firm founded in 1976.