Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ruling Unfair to Hillary Clinton

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ruling Unfair to Hillary Clinton

Article excerpt

On July 11, 1995, and again on Jan. 26, 1996, Hillary Rodham Clinton met with her private attorney and White House lawyers. The first meeting was about Clinton's activities following the death of Vincent Foster, the deputy White House counsel. The second meeting was about her grand jury testimony.

Everything Mrs. Clinton learned as a Yale law student more than two decades earlier would have assured her that the lawyer-client privilege protected the conversations at these meetings. This centuries-old p rivilege prevents the government from forcing lawyers and clients to reveal their private communications.

But in a 2-to-1 ruling on Friday, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in St. Louis, said Clinton could not rely on lawyer-client privilege; notes taken by federal lawyers from those meetings must be given to Whitewater investigators. Whatever one's view of the alleged complicity of the Clintons in Whitewater-related scandals, the court's opinion is unfair. And because the ruling is so broad, it will affect virtually every federal worker who needs to consult with a government lawyer. The appeals court decision declared the lawyer-client privilege inoperative when a federal prosecutor wants to learn what a government official - as the first lady is - has said to a government lawyer. Although there is no other circumstance when the privilege vanishes simply because a prosecutor needs information, the appellate court held that a different rule applied when a federal official revealed criminal conduct to a government lawyer. A federal lawyer's duty is law enforcement, the court said, not concealment of a crime. Its ruling was narrow, the court added, because only conversations that show "potential criminal wrongdoing" were at risk. This ruling is unfair to Clinton for two reasons. First, it is a total surprise. …

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