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Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle is among the stores fighting a request to turn over records of Monica S. Lewinsky's purchases. (The Washington Post)


Related Links
_ Bookstores Fight Lewinsky Supboenas (Washington Post, April 4)

_ Bookstores in Bind Over Subpoenas (Washington Post, April 3)


Quest for Book Buys Faces High Bar

By David Streitfeld and Bill Miller
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, April 10, 1998; Page B01

U.S. District Court Judge Norma Holloway Johnson has set a high bar for independent counsel Kenneth Starr, saying in an order made public yesterday that he will have to show "a compelling need" if he is to get the titles of books bought by Monica Lewinsky.

In her six-page memorandum, the judge declared that Lewinsky's "First Amendment rights are at issue here." Last month Starr subpoenaed the book-buying records of the former White House intern, a central figure in the perjury investigation of President Clinton. In his deposition in the Paula Jones case, Clinton said that Lewinsky had given him one or two books, a statement Starr is attempting to corroborate.

Starr subpoenaed both Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle and Barnes & Noble in Georgetown for records of books Lewinsky bought there over a 28-month period. Johnson wrote that "the bookstores and Ms. Lewinsky have persuasively alleged a chilling effect on their First Amendment rights."

It's also had a chilling effect on Kramerbooks' business, the judge wrote, noting that after the store was initially reported to be cooperating with Starr, "many customers" told its staff they would no longer shop there. A group of librarians also picketed the store.

Prosecutors said at a hearing before Johnson last week that they want the records of Lewinsky's four purchases at Kramerbooks and 12 purchases at Barnes & Noble to help establish the nature of her relationship with Clinton.

But Johnson gave Starr until yesterday to show a "sufficient connection" between the information he is seeking and his grand jury investigation. Starr's office sought more time to file a response, according to sources familiar with the matter, and now has until Monday.

Ann Kappler, an attorney for the American Booksellers Association, said she was encouraged by the language of Johnson's order and predicted that the prosecutors will be unable to convince the judge the subpoenas are necessary.

"She certainly is solicitous of First Amendment issues," Kappler said. "She's set a substantial hurdle requiring them to show a compelling need for the materials. In this instance, I don't think they can meet it."

Arthur Spitzer of the American Civil Liberties Union said Johnson's order "will make it very difficult for the government to enforce this subpoena the way it is written. If I were the government, I would withdraw the subpoena and issue a much narrower one." A narrower subpoena, for instance, could seek to confirm that Lewinsky bought a specific title.

A spokeswoman for Starr didn't return a call for comment. Neither did Nathaniel Speights, Lewinsky's lawyer. A spokesman for Kramerbooks declined comment.

Many free-speech advocates, librarians and booksellers have issued statements or filed briefs in support of the booksellers. "I've rarely seen an issue that has excited our membership as much as this one," the ACLU's Spitzer said. "They all buy books."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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