White House Wag: Courts Back Clinton

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought against the Clinton White House by a woman who alleged that she was raped by President Clinton more than 20 years ago.

Juanita Broaddrick filed suit against the White House and the Department of Justice in December 1999, claiming that Clinton administration staffers illegally maintained files about her and disseminated the information to attack her credibility.

In a ruling last week, U.S. District Court Judge Henry Kennedy threw out Broaddrick's lawsuit. The judge ruled that the president's closest advisers are not covered by the Privacy Act and therefore could not have violated that law. Kennedy also said he was convinced the Justice Department had not improperly released information about Broaddrick.

"Broaddrick has provided no factual support for her conspiracy allegations that the 'Clinton-Gore DOJ' maintained and disseminated confidential files on her in order to 'smear and destroy her reputation,'" the judge wrote in his March 27 opinion.

Broaddrick's allegation that the president raped her in a Little Rock Hotel room in 1978 surfaced in the Paula Jones civil lawsuit. At first, Broaddrick was referred to only as Jane Doe No. 5. But her identity leaked out and she eventually repeated the charge in several interviews.

Through his lawyer, President Clinton denied the rape allegation. During impeachment proceedings, some members of Congress reviewed documents about the claim and found her convincing.

"The bottom line is I believe he did rape Broaddrick," said Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., one of the lawmakers who looked into the alleged incident.

Clinton Critic Loses, Again

In a separate ruling last week, another federal judge rejected a claim by a Clinton White House staffer that she was illegally forced out of her job after she alleged the administration was using a government database to support Democratic Party fund-raising efforts. Computer systems analyst Sheryl Hall's suit, filed in 1999, named Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Democratic National Committee as defendants.

Judge Emmet Sullivan said Hall's only remedy for the alleged wrongdoing was through the civil service grievance system and that the courts had no authority to step in. Sullivan also said that he was required to dismiss Hall's complaint because she had earlier lost a similar case in federal court in Virginia.

Hall had also challenged the Justice Department's right to represent Mrs. Clinton, since she was never a White House employee. Sullivan rebuffed that claim, finding that the government has broad authority to represent the first lady even though she collected no salary.

"We're certainly pleased that the court dismissed the case," DNC attorney Joe Sandler said Friday. "It certainly does close the book." Clinton attorney David Kendall declined to comment on either ruling Friday.

Both Hall and Broaddrick were represented by attorneys from Judicial Watch, a conservative group that filed dozens of lawsuits against the Clinton Administration.

Larry Klayman, the group's chairman, attributes the losses to politics. Kennedy and Sullivan, the judges who handled the cases dismissed last week, were both appointed to the bench by President Clinton.

"Given the fact that we had two Clinton appointees, their decisions don't surprise us," Klayman said Saturday. "Anytime you have a case that has political significance, it's very hard for the judges to confront it."

The losses in the Broaddrick and Hall cases were just the most recent setbacks for Klayman's organization. In January, a judge dismissed a case brought by a woman who claimed Clinton allies had conspired to discourage publication of her semi-autobiographical book about an alleged affair with Clinton. That decision is being appealed and Klayman said appeals will be filed in the Broaddrick and Hall cases as well. Kennedy's ruling that the White House is not covered by the Privacy Act is consistent with decisions from two other judges on the same court. However, one federal judge has found that the White House must obey that law, which limits disclosure of information about individuals. Klayman said he is eager to see whether the new administration maintains the previous White House's legal stance or chooses to acknowledge that the same privacy rules which cover executive branch agencies also apply to the president's staff.

"Given that the previous White House released information from government files to smear Republicans, you would think the Bush administration would be in favor of applying the Privacy Act to the White House," Klayman said.

Sandler, the DNC lawyer, said he's seen no indication that the Bush Justice Department won't vigorously defend cases filed against the Clinton White House. "There are institutional concerns that would lead them to maintain their position," he said.