Is Attorney General Edwin Meese III a scofflaw?

A California court isn't sure, and can't find all the records. Meese doesn't remember, although he thinks he's clean.

The story began on Aug. 25, 1980, during the presidential campaign, when a busy Meese -- he was a top adviser to candidate Ronald Reagan -- attempted to cross a street in West Los Angeles where he wasn't supposed to cross.

Apparently, a vigilant officer gave him a ticket for jaywalking.

That was a little embarrassing, perhaps, but only a $10 ticket. It was a minor incident, quickly forgotten.

Forgotten, that is, until court officials in West Covina recently discovered that an Aug. 29, 1981, warrant for Meese's arrest was still in their computer system, making Meese subject to arrest any time he set foot in Los Angeles.

Court officials found the warrant by accident when they called up the computerized records of a person with a name similar to Meese.

Los Angeles officials, however, said they are not sure whether the fine was paid because they can't find the original paper work.

So they temporarily suspended the arrest warrant, according to the Orange County, Calif., Register.

Officials said they were not yet dismissing the warrant, however, pending an investigation.

Daryl Gates, Los Angeles police chief, was quoted in the Register as saying that he would recommend that the warrant be made "null and void" because the warrant was never served.

Officials said serving warrants for nonpayment of jaywalking tickets is not their top criminal action priority.

Meese was in England this weekend for the American Bar Association convention and could not be reached directly.

A Justice Department spokesman said the warrant did not turn up during background investigations when Meese was nominated for attorney general.

The spokesman said Meese remembered getting the ticket and thought he had paid the fine. If not, he will pay anything he owes, the spokesman said.

If unpaid, the fine would now have grown to $125.50 because of penalties for nonpayment.