Supreme Court Rules Paula Jones Can Sue President Bill Clinton for Sexual Harassment

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NBC Nightly News
Tom Brokaw/Pete Williams
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NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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In a landmark 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court rules that a sitting president can be sued civilly for acts that occurred prior to taking office. NBC's Pete Williams looks at the ruling in Clinton v. Jones, and how it might affect the presidency in the future.



"Supreme Court Rules Paula Jones Can Sue President Bill Clinton for Sexual Harassment." Pete Williams, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 27 May 1997. NBC Learn. Web. 17 January 2015.


Williams, P. (Reporter), & Brokaw, T. (Anchor). (1997, May 27). Supreme Court Rules Paula Jones Can Sue President Bill Clinton for Sexual Harassment. [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from


"Supreme Court Rules Paula Jones Can Sue President Bill Clinton for Sexual Harassment" NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 05/27/1997. Accessed Sat Jan 17 2015 from NBC Learn:


Supreme Court Rules Paula Jones Can Sue President Bill Clinton for Sexual Harassment

TOM BROKAW, anchor:

Paula Jones wants to sue Bill Clinton for sexual harassment and she wants to do it while he is the sitting president. His lawyers said, `No, that would be inappropriate. It can wait until he's out of office.' Today the U.S. Supreme Court said Ms. Jones has the law on her side. She can sue now. No sitting president has ever gone through this before and we begin tonight with NBC's Pete Williams.

PETE WILLIAMS reporting:

Today's decision sweeps aside every legal obstacle that President Clinton's lawyers threw in Paula Jones' way, allowing her to become the first person ever to pursue a private lawsuit against a sitting president. She declined comment today, but her lawyers declared total victory.

Mr. GILBERT DAVIS (Jones' Lawyer): The Supreme Court of the United States has made it possible for Paula Jones, a courageous American, to finally get her day in court--in a court of justice, where truth can be tried.

Mr. JOSEPH CAMMARATA (Jones' Lawyer): What Paula Jones wants is her good name and reputation back from Bill Clinton. He's got it. She wants it. And we're going to get it for her.

WILLIAMS: Today's ruling was unanimous, all nine justices voting against the President, including the two justices he appointed, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Writing the opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens said, `The case involves the unofficial conduct of an individual who just happens to be president and poses no risk of violating any constitutional privilege.' The court said Paula Jones's case involves nothing official. Her claim: that at this hotel in Little Rock six years ago, then-Governor Clinton had an Arkansas state trooper escort her to a room, where Mr. Clinton made a crude sexual advance. Today's ruling also said delaying a trial until President Clinton is out of office increases the danger of losing evidence as memories fade. The President's lawyers had argued that letting this case go forward would bring a deluge of lawsuits from political opponents who want to embarrass him. But the Supreme Court found no danger of that and a constitutional law expert agrees.

Mr. MICHAEL SEIDMAN (Georgetown University): We've had 200 years of history and there hasn't been a deluge so far. I don't see any reason why there's going to be one now. There are various techniques that courts have for weeding out frivolous lawsuits.

WILLIAMS: So now, the action shifts back to a federal courthouse in Little Rock. Today's ruling leaves the door open for the judge there to temporarily delay the case, if the President can prove it's taking so much of his time that it's interfering with his official duties. But that won't be easy. One law professor who supported the President, said today, `As soon as he announces a vacation, he's a sitting duck.' Pete Williams, NBC News, at the Supreme Court.