Petitioner: William J. Clinton, President of the United States
Respondent: Paula Corbin Jones
Petitioner's Claim: That the president of the United States during the term of his presidency is immune from a civil lawsuit challenging his actions prior to his taking office.
Chief Lawyer for Petitioner: Robert S. Bennett
Chief Lawyer for Respondent: Gilbert K. Davis
Justices for the Court: Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony M. Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter, John Paul Stevens, Clarence Thomas
Justices Dissenting: None
Date of Decision: May 27, 1997
Decision: Ruled in favor of Jones by finding that the president does not have immunity from civil lawsuits relating to personal conduct not part of his official duties.
Significance: The ruling asserted that although a president can not be sued for actions related to his official duties, the president is subject to the same laws regulating purely private behavior as the general population.
On May 8, 1991, twenty-four year old Paula Corbin Jones, a state clerical employee, was working at the registration desk for a conference given by Arkansas Industrial Development Commission at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock. About 2:30 PM Bill Clinton, then Governor of Arkansas passed by the desk while attending the conference to make a speech. Shortly afterward, State Trooper Danny Ferguson approached Jones and persuaded her to go upstairs to visit the governor. Jones followed Trooper Ferguson into the hotel elevator which took them to a business suite where Clinton was waiting. Once inside the suite, Jones would later claim Clinton made crude sexual advances, which she rejected and promptly left the room. Jones would also charge that her rejection of those advances led to punishment by her supervisor in the state job she held by changing her job duties. She also claimed the state police officer had later defamed (damaged) her reputation by stating that she had accepted Clinton's advances.
Bill Clinton (1993–) was elected president of the United States in 1992. In May of 1994 Jones filed a civil lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas against Clinton alleging (charging) all of the above activities took place. A civil lawsuit is brought to enforce, make amends for violations, or protect rights of private individuals. It is not a criminal proceeding. Among her charges, Jones claimed her civil rights had been violated and asked for damages of $175,000.
Jones had waited until two days before the three year period of limitations would have expired ending the time period in which a lawsuit could be filed. Jones gave such reasons for not filing earlier as she was afraid of losing her job, the governor was in charge of the state so who could she trust, and now Clinton was the most powerful man in the country.
Clinton's attorneys immediately filed a motion to dismiss the charges based on presidential immunity. Presidential immunity shields the...