The Jones Boys

How a troupe of button-down Dallas lawyers breathed life into Jones vs. Clinton and found themselves the nation's most unlikely feminist heroes

There's more. From October until the present, no legal ground has been uncontested by Bennett, no discovery met without objection, no simple assent to a routine request. As an example, Jim Fisher points wearily to the recent White House dump of documents attacking Kathleen Willey's credibility. Less than 24 hours after Willey told her tale of being pawed by the president on 60 Minutes, the White House produced a number of letters Willey sent the president after the alleged incident.

The problem: Jones' lawyers had requested the suddenly appearing documents back in December.

In relaxed moments, away from the flashbulbs, there's a definite gee-whiz aspect to the lawyers' tales of their great adventure. "We laugh now at the dumb things we said," recalls Holmes. "You know: It's a single event. How complicated can it really be? We'll take some depositions, they'll take some depositions; we'll send some written discovery, they'll object, we'll file a motion to compel. There will be this many depositions, and then they'll file a motion for summary judgment, we'll respond, we'll win or we'll lose and we'll go to trial. How hard can it really be?

"And of course we way, way underestimated the amount of involvement it would take."

Since October, they say, over 50 percent of the firm's time--about $150,000 a month in effort that might have been billed and collected from other clients--has gone into the Jones case. "There toward the end, we had six people in six different cites--and the investigators in another," says Pyke. The cost of the Jones case to date has been $800,000 in attorney time. "And we bill at cheap rates," Holmes points out. (Rader, Campbell's rates range from $130 an hour for McCord Wilson to $200 and hour for Donovan Campbell; by comparison, Skadden Arps' rates range from $150 an hour for its least expensive associates to $475 for Bennett.)

Of course, even accepting their protests that they are not politically motivated, there is nonetheless enormous irony in the fact that the Rutherford Institute is helping to fund Jones' sexual harassment case against the feminist-friendly, pro-choice Clinton.

After all, sexual harassment law is the brainchild of feminist legal scholars. And the Rutherford Institute has not exactly made its name as the champion of women's rights. Virginia lawyer John W. Whitehead started the institute in 1982, naming it for a 17th-century intellectual who argued that even kings are subject to God's law. While Whitehead styles his institute as "an international civil liberties...organization," this isn't the ACLU; Whitehead's group specializes in defending "religious liberties," which in the past has translated into the anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-school-prayer-and-nativity-scene agenda.

Given this, many observers--not to mention the president's own legal team--have been quick to assume that Jones' new gladiators are pursuing her case for the sheer joy of blood sport, rather than out of any deeply held belief in the rights of women. "You know they aren't doing it because they're for women," charges one female member of the president's legal team. Indeed, some seem almost to view this as a clever attack, some sort of perverse plot to turn back the clock for women by taking sexual harassment law to its illogical extreme.

Jones' lawyers adamantly deny the charge. "I hesitate even to say this, because it's gonna be taken out of context," says Holmes, "But what that reminds me of is my tort professor at Baylor saying the best way to get a bad law changed is to enforce it.

"That said, I don't have any fundamental philosophical problem with the civil rights laws. Or Title VII. And I sure don't think that it's just OK--that if everything Paula Jones says happened, happened, that there should be no legal redress for that."

Adds Pyke: "That's just silly. 'Paula, we're only going to take your case if it undermines the laws you're suing under.'"

Surprisingly, and with the exception of one pleading filed by Campbell last February--a document claiming the president "sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, and/or committed oral sex with a 21-year-old White House intern"--it is Bennett whose pleadings can fairly be said to froth at the mouth. He constantly accuses Jones' attorneys of bad faith, of lying, of using the legal system for improper ends.

In fact, though, the Jones lawyers were not on an entirely spurious fishing expedition as they pursued evidence of Clinton's peccadilloes. (Although some of the more ancient tales of Clinton's romances are clearly not fair game for a jury.) Some of the evidence goes to a key element of Jones' case: Then-Gov. Clinton invited Paula Jones to a room on the eighth floor of the Excelsior Hotel with the intent of sexually harassing her.

Similarly, Jones' quest for evidence that Clinton regularly used state troopers to solicit women--not exactly a flattering portrait of the governor of Arkansas--goes to Jones' legal claim that Clinton conspired with Trooper Ferguson to get Jones to that room in order to put the make on her. Thus the troopers' tales of soliciting women--as well as the testimony of women thus recruited--go directly to this part of Jones' case.

Paula Jones' core case seems to have held up extremely well. Consider the testimony of Trooper Ferguson. Ferguson, who still works for the Arkansas state police, is no friend of Jones, as indicated by his choice of counsel: Ferguson is represented by Jonesboro attorney Bill Bristow, who recently announced his candidacy for governor of Arkansas on the Democratic ticket. Bristow claims to be working for Ferguson gratis.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
Sort: Newest | Oldest