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Clinton v. Jones

Supreme Court of the United States

January 13, 1997, Argued ; May 27, 1997, Decided

No. 95-1853


 [*684]  [**1639]  [***954]    JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

 This case raises a constitutional and a prudential question concerning the Office of the President of the United States. Respondent, a private citizen, seeks to recover damages from the current occupant of that office based on actions allegedly taken before his term began. The President submits that in all but the most exceptional cases the Constitution requires federal courts to defer such litigation until his term ends and that, in any event, respect for the office warrants such a stay. Despite the force of the arguments supporting the [****8]  President's submissions, we conclude that they must be rejected.

Petitioner, William Jefferson Clinton, was elected to the Presidency in  [***955]  1992, and re-elected in 1996. His term of office expires on January 20, 2001. In 1991 he was the Governor of the State of Arkansas. Respondent, Paula Corbin Jones, is a resident of California. In 1991 she lived in Arkansas, and was an employee of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission.

 On May 6, 1994, she commenced this action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas by filing a complaint naming petitioner and Danny Ferguson, a former Arkansas State Police officer, as defendants. The  [*685]  complaint alleges two federal claims, and two state law claims over which the federal court has jurisdiction because of the diverse citizenship of the parties.  [**1640]  1 As the case comes to us, we are required to assume the truth of the detailed--but as yet untested-- factual allegations in the complaint.

 [****9]  Those allegations principally describe events that are said to have occurred on the afternoon of May 8, 1991, during an official conference held at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Governor delivered a speech at the conference; respondent--working as a state employee--staffed the registration desk. She alleges that Ferguson persuaded her to leave her desk and to visit the Governor in a business suite at the hotel, where he made "abhorrent" 2 sexual advances that she vehemently rejected. She further claims that her superiors at work subsequently dealt with her in a hostile and rude manner, and changed her duties to punish her for rejecting those advances. Finally, she alleges that after petitioner was elected President, Ferguson defamed her by making a statement to a reporter that implied she had accepted petitioner's alleged overtures, and that various persons authorized to speak for the President publicly branded her a liar by denying that the incident had occurred.

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520 U.S. 681 *; 117 S. Ct. 1636 **; 137 L. Ed. 2d 945 ***; 1997 U.S. LEXIS 3254 ****; 65 U.S.L.W. 4372; 73 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1548; 73 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1549; 70 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P44,686; 97 Cal. Daily Op. Service 3908; 97 Daily Journal DAR 6669; 10 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 499


Subsequent History: On remand at, Complaint dismissed at, in part, Motion denied by, in part, Motion granted by, in part Jones v. Clinton, 974 F. Supp. 712, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12942 (E.D. Ark., 1997)


Jones v. Clinton, 72 F.3d 1354, 1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 253 (8th Cir. Ark., 1996)

Disposition: 72 F.3d 1354, affirmed.


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