President’s deposition in Jones case will remain off limits

Tuesday, March 10, 1998

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP)—The judge presiding over Paula Jones’ sexual harassment lawsuit turned down calls for President Clinton’s deposition in the case to be made public.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright’s order Monday rejected the media’s arguments that a gag order imposed last fall should be lifted and the case file opened to the public on First Amendment grounds.

The order covered a similar request by Judicial Watch Inc., a Washington-based conservative group.

Robert Hoemeke, a lawyer for the news groups, declined to comment on the specifics of the judge’s ruling until he has read it.

“The options are to ask her to reconsider or consider going to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals,” Hoemeke said Monday night from his St. Louis home. “I can’t tell you now what we’re going to do.”

Wright said the press had shown a “callous disregard” for the parties’ right to a fair trial and declared there was “good cause … in attempting to protect individuals from the stigma of being associated with a case that involves alleged sexual indiscretions and which is being played out on a national stage.”

Several news organizations, including The Associated Press, petitioned the judge to open Clinton’s Jan. 17 deposition and other documents filed under seal in the case. They argued leaks of secret information have rendered the gag order imposed last October ineffective.

In a scathing attack, Wright accused the news media of using gossip, speculation, innuendo and questionable sources for printing stories that are “apparently no longer subjected to critical examination … for accuracy and bias.”

Mrs. Jones claims that Clinton propositioned her in a Little Rock hotel room in 1991, when she was a state employee and he was Arkansas governor. She says she rebuffed his advances and suffered on the job for that. Clinton denies the allegations.

The trial is to begin May 27.

In addition to the AP, other media joining in the request to lift the secrecy order included Pulitzer Publishing Co., publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; The New York Times; USA TODAY; Newsday; NBC; CBS; ABC; CNN; Time; Little Rock Newspapers, publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

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