WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2001 -- A federal court judge has tossed out a lawsuit brought by a woman who claimed to have had a long-running sexual affair with former President Clinton.
In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge William Bryant rejected a suit filed in August 1998 by Texas real estate lawyer Dolly Kyle Browning, alleging Clinton and others tried to prevent her from publishing a book “loosely based” on her relationship with him.
Browning later alleged a racketeering conspiracy involving New Yorker writer Jane Mayer and the magazine, Clinton aides Marsha Scott and Bruce Lindsey and Clinton attorney Robert Bennett, aimed at defaming her and suppressing her book, Purposes of the Heart.
Complete Rejection of Case
Bryant’s opinion, dated Feb. 8 and filed Feb. 12, amounts to a complete rejection of the legal underpinnings of Browning’s case. The judge ruled the case was so flawed there was no need to proceed with depositions or a trial.
Attorneys for the former president were clearly pleased.
“It was a carefully reasoned opinion,” longtime Clinton lawyer David Kendall said Thursday.
Browning has already appealed the judge’s decision. “We’re confident it will be overturned,” Browning’s attorney Larry Klayman said Wednesday.
Punching a hole in the idea that Clinton or his associates could have undermined the book, Bryant found that among publishers there was little appetite for Browning’s book before or after the alleged conspiracy, that for two years there was “not even a hint of interest on the part of a publisher.”
He also suggested Browning may have had an unreasonably inflated opinion of its marketablity. “Even extreme optimism must ultimately give way to reality,” Bryant wrote.
Sexual Affair Allegations
Browning says she went to high school with Bill Clinton and his brother Roger in Hot Springs, Ark. in the 1960s. She alleged she became friends with the future president and carried on an extramarital sexual affair with him from the mid-1970s until roughly 1991.
Her lawsuit centers on handwritten notes President Clinton made about a 1994 conversation the two had in Arkansas at their 30th high school reunion. At a 1998 deposition in the Paula Jones case, Clinton said he wrote out the three pages in order to protect himself against untrue claims Browning was making about an affair.
“She basically said she didn’t want me to be her friend and she was mad at me because I’d never been her lover,” Clinton said at the deposition.
Browning alleged the notes falsely denied their relationship. But the judge said Clinton was protected by the fact that the notes were only made public as a result of their being filed in the Jones lawsuit. Bryant ruled that Clinton’s production of the notes in that context was “absolutely privileged” and could not be held against him.
‘Garbage,’ ‘Defamation’ and an Affidavit
Browning’s lawsuit also cited a 1998 news conference Bennett conducted in which he described as “garbage” various materials filed by lawyers for Jones. Browning asserted that since an affidavit she wrote attesting to her alleged affair with Clinton was part of the filing Bennett referred to, Bennett had attacked and defamed her.
Judge Bryant rejected that claim as well, pointing out that Bennett never mentioned Browning by name and that her affidavit was just a small part of the 700-page filing.
Bryant dismissed all off the claims against Mayer and the New Yorker on technical legal grounds. Browning took issue with a May 1997 article Mayer wrote about the book, but the judge found that Browning had failed to file the suit within a year of publication, as required under District of Columbia law.
In his decision, Bryant takes some shots at Browning’s legal filings, calling her complaint “somewhat prolix.” But the judge also took his time in deciding the case.
Clinton and others first brought motions to dismiss the case in October 1998. Bryant’s order granting those motions came more than two years later.
Soon after the case was filed, Clinton’s legal team sought to have it stayed, or put on hold, for the remainder of his term on the grounds of “presidential immunity.” They argued that presidents should not be burdened with litigation while in office, an argument similar to the one Clinton advanced unsuccessfully before the Supreme Court in the Paula Jones case.
Bryant never ruled on Clinton’s claim of presidential immunity, but the judge’s delays in deciding pending motions in the case pushed its conclusion past the end of the president’s term.
Klayman said that may have been no accident. “Given the two-and-a-half year delay, one wonders whether he was waiting for the Clintons to leave office,” he said.
Bryant, 89, is an appointee of President Lyndon Johnson. He has been in senior status, or semi-retired, for 19 years.