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Bill Clinton disbarred

Published: 10:28AM Tuesday October 02, 2001

Former United States President Bill Clinton has been barred from practising law in the US Supreme Court in the latest and possibly final episode of the Monica Lewinsky scandal that dominated his second term in office.

"Bill Clinton is suspended from the practice of law in this Court," the Supreme Court announced in a decision that came without comment or indication of how the nine justices of the high court had voted on the ruling. Clinton has 40 days to contest the decision.

The Supreme Court gave no reason for its move. However in April, the former president paid a fine of $US25,000 ($61,500,000) and was barred from practicing law for five years in his home state of Arkansas.

That move stemmed from Clinton's admission on leaving office that he had testified falsely in the investigation that led to his impeachment trial in the US Senate in 1999 on charges relating to the Lewinsky scandal.

At issue were Clinton's forceful denials under oath of an affair with Lewinsky during a deposition in a sexual harassment case against him filed by Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee.

If Clinton declines to contest the decision of the justices, the former president's disbarment at the Supreme Court will become permanent. And though the decision in theory concerns only the Supreme Court, legal experts say it would be unlikely that a lawyer thus singled out by the justices would continue to plead before lower courts.

For Clinton, the high court decision is an embarrassment, but nothing more. Though a trained lawyer, Clinton has steered his career clear of the law courts, and although he has lectured in the subject he has expressed no interest in ever taking up law in the future.

The Supreme Court decision stems from a ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court on January 19, the day before Clinton quit the White House concluding his second term as president.

The Yale law school graduate who was acquitted of charges including perjury during his impeachment trial was banned from practising law in the state following his admission of guilt as part of a deal with prosecutors to avoid further charges once he left office.

Clinton had vigorously denied having conducted a secret affair with Lewinsky for eight months prior to his Senate impeachment trial for perjury and obstruction of justice which opened on January 7, 1999. He was acquitted on both counts on February 12.

As he was leaving office, Independent Council Robert Ray offered Clinton assurances that he would not be subject to further prosecution relating to the Lewinsky affair. In exchange, Clinton admitted he made misleading statements under oath.

Chelsea starts school

Chelsea Clinton followed in her father's footsteps on Monday (local time) when she began a new life at Oxford University.

Chelsea, 21, is taking a two-year course in International Relations at University College, the same college that Clinton attended as a Rhodes Scholar from 1968-1970.

It was during his time at the top university that Clinton smoked marijuana, news of which prompted his famous "I did not inhale" declaration during the 1992 presidential campaign.

The former US president was also presented with an honorary degree by the university in 1994, an event he described as "one of my most wonderful days".

Last December, newspapers said several Oxford college heads favoured Clinton as the university's next chancellor, while Clinton himself was quoted as saying he was taken with the idea of returning to his alma mater in a teaching role.

Father and daughter arrived in the central England city on Sunday, flanked by British and US security officials.

"We hope people will very quickly let her get on with her student life," a university spokeswoman said.

Media interest in the Clinton arrival was "nothing like that" for Prince William's arrival at St Andrews University in Scotland to begin his student life last week, she said.

William, the 19-year-old son of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, found himself at the centre of a press intrusion row involving a television crew working for his uncle Prince Edward.

The breach of privacy is said to have enraged Prince Charles and William's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth.

Like William, Chelsea Clinton has made it plain she wishes to lead "a normal student life" at university, the spokeswoman said, adding that this would mean attending lectures and academic functions as well as social events with other students.

Security around Clinton is said to have been tightened in the wake of the September 12 attacks but the university would not discuss "security arrangements for individual students".

During Clinton's undergraduate years at California's Stanford University, from which she graduated with honours in June, security arrangements included bulletproof glass in her dorm and a herd of Secret Service agents.

In Oxford, she will be staying in university accommodation where she will have her own room but must share a bathroom. Classes start officially on Monday October 8.

Her first week is an induction week during which students meet tutors, work out lecture timetables, join the library and get to know their new home-from-home.