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Judge Wright’s Ruling in the Paula Jones Case

This is the text of the ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright in the Paula Jones case.

The ruling was given in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Ruling by US District Judge Susan Webber Wright.

Before the court is a motion by the United States, through the Office of the Independent Counsel (OIC), for limited intervention and stay of discovery in the case of Jones vs. Clinton. … The Court held a telephone conference on this motion on the morning of Jan. 29, 1998, during which the views of counsel for the plaintiff, counsel for the defendants and the OIC were expressed. Having considered the matter, the court hereby grants in part and denies in part OIC’s motion.

In seeking limited intervention and a stay of discovery, OIC states that counsel for the plaintiff, in a limited and calculated manner, are shadowing the grand jury’s investigation of the Monica Lewinsky matter. … OIC states that ‘the pending criminal investigation is of such gravity and paramount importance that this court would do a disservice to the nation if it were to permit the unfettered — and extraordinarily aggressive — discovery efforts currently under way to proceed unabated.” … OIC’s motion comes with less than 48 hours left in the period for conducting discovery, the cutoff date being Jan. 30, 1998. Given the timing of OIC’s motion and the possible impact that this motion could have on the proceedings in this matter, the court is required to rule at this time on the admissibility at trial of evidence concerning Monica Lewinsky.

Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that evidence, though relevant, “may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues or misleading the jury or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.” This weighing process compels the conclusion that evidence concerning Monica Lewinsky should be excluded from the trial of this matter.

The court acknowledges that evidence concerning Monica Lewinsky might be relevant to the issues in this case. The court would await resolution of the criminal investigation currently under way if the Lewinsky evidence were essential to the plaintiff’s case. The court determines, however, that it is not essential to the core issues in this case. In fact, some of this evidence might even be inadmissible as extrinsic evidence under Rule 608(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Admitting any evidence of the Lewinsky matter would frustrate the timely resolution of this case and would undoubtedly cause undue expense and delay.

The court’s ruling today does not preclude admission of any other evidence of alleged improper conduct occurring in the White House.

In addition, and perhaps more importantly, the substantial interests of the presidency militate against any undue delay in this matter that would be occasioned by allowing plaintiff to pursue the Monica Lewinsky matter. Under the Supreme Court’s ruling in Clinton vs. Jones … “the high respect that is owed to the Office of the Chief Executive … is a matter that should inform the conduct of the entire proceeding, including the timing and scope of discovery.” There can be no doubt that a speedy resolution of this case is in everyone’s best interests, including that of the Office of the President, and the court will therefore direct that the case stay on course.

One final basis for the court’s ruling is the integrity of the criminal investigation. This court must consider the fact that the government’s proceedings could be impaired and prejudiced were the court to permit inquiry into the Lewinsky matter by the parties in this civil case. … In that regard, it would not be proper for this court, given that it must generally yield to the interest of an ongoing grand jury investigation, to give counsel for the plaintiff or the defendants access to witnesses’ statements in the government’s criminal investigation. See Fed.R.Crim.P. 16(a)(2), which generally prohibits the discovery of government witnesses. That being so, and because this case can in any event proceed without evidence concerning Monica Lewinsky, the court will exclude evidence concerning her from the trial of this matter.

In sum, the plaintiff and defendants may not continue with discovery of those matters that concern Monica Lewinsky. In that regard, OIC’s motion for limited intervention and stay of discovery is granted. Further, any evidence concerning Ms. Lewinsky shall be excluded from the trial of this matter. With respect to matters that do not involve Monica Lewinsky, OIC’s motion is denied and the parties may continue with discovery. Because the telephone conference underlying today’s ruling involved a discussion of discovery matters, the transcript of the conference shall remain under seal in accordance with the court’s Confidentiality Order on Consent of all Parties.

It is so ordered this 29th day of January 1998.

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