[CUA Office of Public 

Legacy of Paula Jones Case Goes Beyond Clinton Presidency

April 2, 1998

f.gif (1005 bytes)uture American presidents may face "a Pandora's box of O.J. Simpson- like trials" as a result of the Paula Jones case, according to John K. White, professor of politics at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

The civil suit against President Clinton was dismissed yesterday by a federal judge in Arkansas, but the effects of the Supreme Court's decision last May to let the case proceed will be the "ultimate legacy" of the case, White said.

White, a presidential scholar, said the dismissal of the case by the Arkansas judge was "a significant victory for the President," but added, ":the case has hurt both the institution of the presidency and Clinton's presidency. Some degree of scandal is going to be associated with Clinton as part of his legacy. But the enduring legacy goes beyond Clinton."

The Supreme Court decision "hurts the institution because it invites the kind of lawsuits that Jones initiated, whether there's merit or not," White said. "Previously, it has always been believed that a president could not be indicted. There is no precedent for that."

The Supreme Court ruling that Clinton could be the subject of a lawsuit for alleged actions before assuming office "is only a small step away from saying, 'we'll bring a civil lawsuit for actions you took as president.' That decision hurts the president and weakens the institution of the presidency."

White predicted that the long-term effects on the presidency remain to be seen. "In a way, all presidents are custodians of the office for a very short period," White said. "The institution of the presidency is weaker today."

White has done extensive research and written books on the presidency, elections, political parties, and voting behavior.


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Revised: 4 February 1998

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