Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Ninth Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Suit Against Senator, Clinton Aides
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a suit that accused Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and two former advisers to President Clinton of conspiring to discredit Gennifer Flowers after she claimed she had an affair with the former president.
Flowers sued James Carville and George Stephanopoulos for defamation in 1999, after they suggested in talk show interviews that the audiotapes she used to try to prove she and Clinton had an affair were doctored.
Flowers amended the suit in 2000 to add the former first lady, whom she accused of conspiring to plant false reports that the tapes were doctored.
The panel, in an unpublished memorandum, unanimously upheld a Nevada district court ruling that the claim against Hillary Clinton was barred by the state’s statute of limitations.
Flowers also was unable to prove that Carville and Stephanopoulos intentionally or recklessly made false statements about her, presenting “insufficient evidence of actual malice,” the three-judge panel wrote in affirming U.S. District Judge Philip Pro’s ruling.
The lawsuit had sought unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.
Judicial Watch, a conservative Washington public-interest group that represented Flowers, said it was considering another appeal.
“She’s extremely disappointed. She had more faith in the judicial system,” the group’s president Tom Fitton said, after speaking to Flowers, a former Nevada lounge singer who now lives in Louisiana.
Stephanopoulos’ attorney, Laura Handman, said she was ready for any more legal action by Flowers.
“We’re very pleased that after more than six years of litigation about events in a presidential campaign 14 years ago, all of Gennifer Flowers’ claims have been dismissed as insufficient,” Handman said.
Attorneys for Clinton and Carville could not be reached for comment
Flowers, a former Arkansas resident, burst on the scene in 1992 when the Star tabloid reported that she had carried on an affair with the then-governor of Arkansas. She and Bill Clinton both denied the reports initially, but Flowers later sold her story to the tabloid and held a press conference at which she played secret recording of intimate phone calls from Clinton.
Later news reports said the tapes may have been edited. Flowers charged that the Clinton aides destroyed her reputation by labeling her a liar and a fraud.
She claimed that Hillary Clinton masterminded a conspiracy in which the two aides defamed Flowers and painted her in a false light by claiming that she had lied to the Star and altered the tapes. Flowers also alleged that the senator directed other, unnamed conspirators to break into her residence.
Pro’s original order dismissing the case was overturned by the Ninth Circuit in 2002, the panel holding that the defendants could be liable if they knew that the news reports of the tapes being edited were false. But if they were merely repeating news accounts that they had no reason to disbelieve, the court said, their comments were protected speech.
On remand, Pro ruled that Flowers, who as a public figure had to prove actual malice, failed to present a prima facie case and granted summary judgment. The Ninth Circuit panel yesterday said he was correct.
The case is Flowers v. Carville, 00-17299.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company