WASHINGTON -- A federal judge in Little Rock, Ark., refused yesterday to hand off to another judge the issue of whether to hold President Clinton in contempt for giving "misleading" testimony in the Paula Corbin Jones sexual misconduct case.
U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright said in a brief order: "The court will consider issues of contempt, but will do so on its own terms and in a manner it deems appropriate."
Wright rejected a demand that she step aside and a separate plea that, before taking herself out of the case, she start a criminal contempt proceeding against Clinton. Those requests had been made by lawyers for Dolly Kyle Browning, a Dallas woman who has a lawsuit pending in Washington against Clinton, claiming he defamed her in denying a long-term sexual relationship with her.
Last week, Wright revived the dormant contempt issue she had raised in September. She cited Clinton's public admission that his denial under oath, in the Jones case, of a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky was misleading.
The judge gave the president and other parties involved in lingering disputes from the settled Jones case a chance to ask that she disqualify herself from the case, on the grounds that she and her law clerk had been drawn into some aspects of Clinton's Senate impeachment trial.
No one directly involved in the leftover disputes in the Jones case has asked Wright to disqualify herself. But over the weekend, the judge turned to the Browning requests, and she rejected them yesterday in a two-page order. Wright noted that Browning was not a party before her and said Browning had not offered "sufficient grounds" to justify disqualification.
The judge said she would choose on her own the options for dealing with the contempt issue. She did not elaborate.
Pub Date: 2/23/99