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Starr Asks High Court Not to Tie Up Foster Lawyer's Notes

By Richard Carelli
Associated Press
Wednesday, February 18, 1998; Page A07

Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr urged the Supreme Court yesterday not to slow his effort to get notes from a meeting White House aide Vincent W. Foster Jr. had with his lawyer nine days before Foster's 1993 suicide.

Starr is trying to determine whether presidential aides lied about first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's role in a White House purge of its travel office staff. She has said she had no role.

Foster's 1993 conversation with lawyer Jim Hamilton focused on those firings, but Hamilton is claiming an attorney-client privilege against disclosure. Last month, he asked the Supreme Court to help him keep his three pages of notes out of Starr's hands.

In a response filed Tuesday, Starr argued that no such privilege of confidentiality exists once a client dies. And he told the justices that granting Hamilton's appeal will only "delay an important grand jury investigation which touches on vital matters of public concern."

"Delay of this magnitude seriously impedes a grand jury investigation," Starr wrote. "This court's review . . . would cause further lengthy delays."

A federal appeals court ruled that Hamilton's notes are not necessarily protected by the attorney-client privilege. The appeals court, by a 2 to 1 vote, ordered that a federal trial judge study the notes and determine whether they should be surrendered to the Whitewater grand jury that subpoenaed them 26 months ago.

Starr noted that the appeals court ruling is the first federal appellate ruling on whether the attorney-client privilege extends beyond the grave.

Starr's attempt to shoot down Hamilton's Supreme Court case was opposed in two friend-of-the-court briefs submitted Tuesday in behalf of the American Bar Association, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, American Corporate Counsel Association and National Hospice Organization.

Documents unsealed by the appeals court last month offered a glimpse into Foster's talk with Hamilton about the impending travel office investigations.

In their conversation on July 11, 1993, "Vince was troubled about this and about the effect on his reputation and others," Hamilton recalled last June.

Foster was found dead on July 20, 1993, of what authorities determined was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Although Hillary Clinton has denied any part in the travel office firings, a draft memo by a former White House aide belatedly given to Whitewater investigators in 1996 says the first lady was behind the dismissals.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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