Lawyers pull out of Clinton sex case

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The Independent Online
Two high-profile Washington lawyers engaged by Paula Jones, the Arkansas woman who accuses President Bill Clinton of sexual harassment, were allowed to stand down from the case yesterday following a dispute with Ms Jones about how to proceed.

The judge overseeing the case ruled that Joseph Cammarata and Gilbert Davies, who had aggressively championed Ms Jones's cause earlier in the year, should be paid for their work - a bill that will run into thousands of dollars.

Ms Jones accuses Mr Clinton of making unwelcome sexual advances to her when he was governor of Arkansas, charging that he invited her to a hotel room during a conference in the state capital, Little Rock, and asked her to perform oral sex. She says that she declined, saying that she was "not that sort of girl" and was allowed to leave, unmolested, but decided to sue Mr Clinton after being identified (by her first name only) in a magazine article.

Three weeks ago, all the pressure seemed to be on Mr Clinton to settle out of court after the Arkansas judge, Susan Webber Wright, decided that there was a case to answer and fixed the trial date for May. Since then, Mr Clinton, through his lawyer, Robert Bennett, has offered to pay Ms Jones $700,000 (pounds 443,000) for hurt feelings, but has also stipulated that he would under no circumstances apologise or issue any statement that could be construed as an admission of guilt.

Ms Jones's lawyers, it is said, wanted her to accept the settlement. But she declined unless it was accompanied by an admission that she was telling the truth. Mr Clinton has said that he has "no recollection" of meeting her. She declined a proposed settlement two years ago on similar grounds.

On the face of it, the break between Ms Jones and her lawyers is to her disadvantage. The order that she should pay their fees - which both sides anticipated would come out of any settlement - could bankrupt her. Her rejection of their advice, coupled with lack of funds, could also make other lawyers reluctant to take her case (this is the second time she has changed legal teams), and leaves little time for new lawyers to get to grips with the case.

On the other hand, her action seems to give credence to her insistence that she is not a "gold-digger" in pursuit of com- pensation. Her funds are thought to be running low. In that case, she would have to accept a court-appointed lawyer, or even defend herself.