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Dream Case Is a Burden, Lawyer Finds
No Pay, Long Hours For Tripp's Counsel

By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 26, 1998; Page A09

James Moody had big plans for the coming months. A Washington lawyer with a taste for libertarian causes, he was readying a couple of whistleblower lawsuits and pursuing a case against a cherry-farming cartel.

But now the 44-year-old solo practitioner is swamped with phone calls and working 21-hour days, all for a single client who cannot afford his $275-an-hour fee. Linda R. Tripp, the woman who secretly tape-recorded former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, asked Moody to represent her two weeks ago -- and his life has been upended ever since.

"I had no way of anticipating this barrage," Moody said in a telephone interview yesterday. "When she called me, I thought I was just going to connect her to the right prosecutor. I figured this would all unfold secretly and quietly."

Most Washington lawyers would consider Tripp the ultimate dream client, a sure-fire ticket to "Larry King Live" and the sort of advertisement that money and years of quiet reputation-building cannot buy. Local lawyers last week were salivating at the thought of signing up any player in this widening scandal.

Moody, however, sounded almost irked by new-found notoriety. Giving away a huge chunk of his time -- Tripp will not be paying him -- is not the problem. It is putting every other case on a back burner that bothers him.

Further, the job is not as high-profile as it sounds. Since Tripp, who has not been charged with any crime, is a public relations specialist, she will be handling her own television appearances once she starts making them, according to Moody. And even if he became a "Nightline" regular, little of his time is dedicated to helping government officials out of jams, so it will not necessarily translate into the sort of work he likes doing.

Moody's practice usually consists of a pastiche of lawsuits, all related to his zeal for reducing government intrusion, he said. He seems an odd choice for Tripp, given that there are hundreds of D.C. lawyers who handle just white-collar defense cases. But as part of his libertarian streak, Moody has a history of taking abuse-of-power cases. In addition, he has worked free for several conservative legal groups.

One is the Landmark Legal Foundation, a right-leaning public interest law firm that has been virulently critical of Democrats in general and the Clinton administration in particular. Recently, the group requested an independent counsel to investigate Vice President Gore's role in a Buddhist temple event last year that has figured in campaign fund-raising probes, a request the Justice Department turned down.

One of Landmark's large contributors is Richard Mellon Scaife, a conservative philanthropist who bitterly opposes Clinton.

For months, Moody has been assisting Landmark in a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service, which Landmark believes might be auditing conservative groups at the instigation of government officials. According to Landmark's president, Mark Levin, Moody was brought in because of his expertise with requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

"He's known as a free-marketeer and an expert in FOIA litigation and I called around and got his name," Levin said yesterday.

Moody is uncertain how Tripp learned about him, but he scoffs at the notion that he got the job because of ties to conservatives. His best guess is that while Tripp worked for the White House counsel's office during the Bush administration, she was impressed with his success in badgering officials to drop decades-old regulations in the citrus industry.

Tripp called him after she dropped her original lawyers at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker. Moody would not explain her decision to switch attorneys, citing attorney-client privilege rules.

Moody was raised in Kansas City, Mo., and got an undergraduate degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a law degree from Georgetown University. He worked for a couple of years at Hogan & Hartson, a large Washington corporate firm, and later took out on his own. He is single and said he works long hours even when his cases do not attract attention.

"I've never had a shortage of things to do," he said. "I guess I'm in the Peace Corps phase of my life, rather than the big money phase."

Staff researcher Richard Drezen contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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