Paula Jones - the April 1, 1998 Ruling
Perhaps people thought that I would take down my Paula Jones pages and hide my head in embarrassment, due to the April 1, 1998 ruling by Judge Susan Webber Wright, which granted Clinton's motion for summary judgment, agreeing that Jones had failed to produce evidence of harassment or workplace discrimination. Since Paula decided on April 16, 1998 to appeal the decision, (a decision which 64% of people polled on an April 22, 1998 CNN AllPolitics poll supported) the web site will obviously remain active, and it would have even if Paula Jones had decided not to appeal. Let's take a look at what happened.
By Carolyn Gargaro
(Of course, Judge Susan Webber Wright has held the President in civil contempt, due to his testimony. I remember when Judge Wright dismissed this case, and many liberals e-mailed me, praising this "one Republican" who had "sense" enough to dismiss the case. I wonder if these same people will have the same praise for this judge now that she has held the President in contempt of court? Or will they suddenly change their tune and chalk Judge Wright up as part of this "vast right-wing conspiracy"?)
Anyway, the ruling said Jones' allegations fell "far short" of what was required under the law to support her claim of "outrage" and there were no "genuine issues" worthy of a trial. "Worthy of a trial" in that under Arkansas law, the alleged actions of President Clinton did not constitute sexual harassment. In fact, the judge's dismissal of the case was not a refutation of Paula Jones' claim, but rather a concession that even if all the allegations were true she still would not have a sufficiently powerful legal argument to go ahead with a trial. Perhaps in another state, the same alleged actions would warrant a trial. According to the judge, under Arkansas law, touching an employee, exposing oneself, and asking for oral sex one time does not constitute sexual harassment unless:
1. The woman can show that she has been denied tangible benefits or has been treated differently in a noticeable way.
2. The woman can show that she "suffered distress so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it."
Well, in that case, as a law student (who agrees with the judge) pointed out: "The unfortunate fact is that women are propositioned by their bosses all the time, sometimes even in the exact fashion that Paula was. Unless all of these women were suffering uncontrollably (and thus filing suit), there is no way you can say this was unendurable, because SOMEONE has endured it." Thus, I think it would be very difficult for any woman in Arkansas to win a sexual harassment case, since, because other people have endured such actions, it would be difficult to prove that it was "so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it."
Also, in the decision, Paula Jones is criticized for not having had psychiatric help because that would have aided her proof. Now wait a minute - everyone keeps pointing out that Paula Jones used to live in a trailer park - she was poor! A poor woman from Arkansas does not have access to $200 an hour psychiatrists! So if you're poor you don't get justice in Arkansas because you didn't go running to a psychiatrist.
With this in mind, it is crucial to note that the decision to dismiss this lawsuit was not based on any doubt of the veracity of Paula Jones' allegations, but on what happened subsequently to Jones in her workplace environment.
Some people are yelling "Vindication! See?! Paula Jones was lying! Nothing happened." Well, not necessarily. Judge Wright never said that the incident never occurred, or that Paula Jones' claim was not true. What the judge said was that even if the events occurred exactly as Paula Jones described, it did not constitute harassment under the law in Arkansas.
If this is indeed the law in Arkansas law, then I believe the law needs to be changed, and I also believe that the judge was not completely correct in her judgment. This belief has nothing to do with my politics. For instance, there are avid Clinton supporters who agree with my stance on the issue. One example is Ed Koch - former mayor of New York, and a liberal who likes Clinton. Following is a direct quote from Ed Koch:From Larry King Live, 4/2/98: "I, as you know, am a supporter of President Clinton, think he's a very good president for all of the reasons that we've talked about before - the economy, we're at peace, unemployment is way down, but I believe he's guilty of sexual harassment, and I believe that it is not impeachable and he shouldn't resign, but that Judge Wright should be reversed and I believe she will be."If having your boss drop his pants and ask for oral sex, and then having problems as a result isn't harassment, then what is? Also, why do I have the sneaking suspicion that if Clinton was a Republican, people would be screaming for a revision of Arkansas law?
"She said there is no action under Arkansas law and there's no action under Title 7. I hope that there's an action under at least one of them, and I suspect it will be under Arkansas law. You can not tell me that there is no hostile workplace if a secretary walks in to the office of an employer, and not a direct employer, but the CEO, and he pull his pants down and he asks for an act of fellatio, and she's not punished when she says "no", but she's horrified - you're going to tell me that's not actionable? I don't believe it!"
"Judge Wright had to assume it occurred under a motion for summary judgement, and if it occurred, and that's what we're talking about, then I think that if that isn't a hostile workplace, then there are no hostile workplaces!" - Ed Koch
In addition, the judge's ruling does not negate the reason I started this Paula Jones ribbon page in the first place. I started the page because I believed there was a double standard in the case in how people treated Paula Jones. People made fun of where she lived, what she looked like, and claimed that this whole thing was a right-wing plot. First, as a woman, I am still disgusted that people seem to think that a person's residence or looks has any bearing on a legal case. Secondly, I still think that if the very same charges had been brought against Newt Gingrich, there would have been massive support for Paula Jones. Lastly - a right wing plot? This is no more a right-wing plot than Anita Hill's charges against Clarence Thomas was a left-wing plot. For more details on the reasons behind starting this on-line campaign, please see my original page. Like I said, the judge's decision does not negate the bias and hypocrisy that was shown, and is still being shown, in people's attitudes towards this case.
On a side note, people have been smugly pointing out to me that the judge was appointed to the federal bench by President George Bush in 1990, and use this as a way to "prove" that her ruling somehow indicated that the incident never occurred and that Paula Jones lied. Well first, as I stated earlier, the judge never ruled that the incident did not occur. Secondly, I bet if she ruled in favor of Paula Jones, the same people who are exalting her as a "hero" would be screaming that she was "biased" and part of the "right-wing conspiracy." And again, I bet that these same, smug people, will change their tune about the judge now that she has held the President in contempt for lying in the Paula Jones deposition.
I feel bad for the men who have been found guilty of harassment when all they did was ask a woman out for a date, or comment on how a woman dressed, or told a sexist joke. As a woman who works with almost all men, and whose majority of friends are male, I certainly do not condone harassment charges for the above reasons - THAT is not sexual harassment in my opinion, yet there have been plenty of men who have been found guilty of harassment because of such actions. For instance: someone was telling me just recently about a case in his area. A woman worked for a company for a total of 3 months. Within that time, her boss referred to her as "chickey-baby" several times. The woman was awarded 10% of the company. TEN PERCENT OF THE COMPANY?! For being called "chickey-baby"??! This is where I see another problem - the wide variation in sexual harassment laws. In one state, a comment or a request for a date can get a man fired, and in another, (Arkansas) much more serious actions are not grounds for harassment. Neither extreme is correct, and that needs to be changed.
Many are happy with this decision, and have already sent me numerous messages about how happy they are. What's interesting about the messages is that many of them are very misogynistic - they aren't just happy that the Paula Jones case was thrown out, they are happy because they see this is an opening for women not to be able to bring sexual harassment suits to trial. They see it as a victory for those who believe that a woman should just "sit back and take it." To me, this type of "victory" is a bit hollow.
I still support Paula Jones' right to a trial, and her decision to appeal this ruling. I believe the law is in error, and that does not mean that my support for Paula Jones and other women who have been truly harassed has diminished. I have had people tell me that I should shut up - in other words, that I should be silenced. Is this what we have come to? Women should just keep their opinions to themselves and accept sexual harassment?
I and others, such as Ed Koch, also believe that, even with the present Arkansas law, there is still a case. There was an equal protection claim here, a civil rights claim, that she was discriminated against on the basis of gender. The president, because she is a woman, allegedly preyed on her, stroked her, ran his hands on her and then dropped his pants and asked for oral sex. When she didn't, there was an implied threat there, and that, in and of itself, under the 1983 Civil Rights Act is enough to constitute a case.
One of my male friends said sarcastically, after hearing the ruling, (a male who supported Paula Jones):"The judge wrote that whatever went on in the hotel room, it 'was brief and isolated; did not result in any physical harm ... did not result in distress so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it.'"Now, one might say, "AH! But Clinton never touched Jones. In the 'breast touching' example, the person is being touched." Well, Clinton did touch Jones, according to the complaint files by Jones. As is exactly in the official complaint:
"So if I briefly grab a girls breast, just one time of course, don't bruise her, and just say, "Nice to meet you," that will be OK? Surely, she could endure that."
Clinton then took Jones' hand and pulled her toward him, so that their bodies were in close proximity.
Jones removed her hand from his and retreated several feet.
However, Clinton approached Jones again. He said: "I love the way your hair flows down your back" and "I love your curves." While saying these things, Clinton put his hand on Plaintiff's leg and started sliding it toward the hem of Plaintiff's culottes. Clinton also bent down to attempt to kiss Jones on the neck.
Those of you who are gleeful at this supposed "victory" - well, I hope you realize that this "victory" perpetuates the laws that cause some men to pay dearly for calling a woman "chickey-baby," while other men can drop their pants and ask for oral sex from their employees. In addition, the attitude still prevails that some women, if they agree with a certain agenda, will get undying support from feminist groups, while other women will be left out in the cold, and that women who are not part of the "elite" are automatically seen as "bimbos" and "liars."This article copyright © Carolyn Gargaro and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.