Clinton Accused Special Report
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Key Player:
Susan Webber Wright

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U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright of Little Rock dismissed Paula Jones's sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton on April 1.

The bold step astonished many legal experts, who thought Wright would take the personally safer course and let the suit go to trial. But in a bold and unwavering 39-page ruling, Wright expressed exasperation with Jones and her lawyers and made it clear that she didn't think the case was even a close call.

Wright, 49, had known Clinton for decades, but their history cut both ways. She was a student in an admiralty law course Clinton taught at the University of Arkansas in the early 1970s, but she challenged him over her grade in the course. She got involved in Clinton's first political race in 1974, but it was to work for his Republican opponent.

Wright already had handled several high-profile legal issues arising from independent counsel Kenneth Starr's ongoing investigation of the Clintons' failed Whitewater real estate investment – sometimes coming down on the side of the president and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, but just as often ruling against them.

Lawyers who have practiced before her say Wright tends to veer toward a safe middle ground, studiously avoiding setting precedent, making law or setting social policy. In fact, until her decision to dismiss the case, her barring in January of any evidence about the Monica Lewinsky matter from the Jones case was viewed by many as the most daring thing she had done in eight years on the bench.

To Wright, Decision Wasn't Even a Close Call (April 2, 1998)
Full Text of Judge Wright's Judgment (April 1, 1998)
Clinton Judge Has In-House Counsel (Feb. 9, 1998)
Trial Judge in Jones Case, a Republican Appointee, Has Long Known Clinton (May 29, 1997)

(Updated October 2, 1998)

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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