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William Jefferson Clinton v. Paula Corbin Jones

Citation. 520 U.S. 681 (1997)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Jones sued Clinton in civil court for actions prior to his Presidency. Clinton argued that the litigation should be stayed until after his term because of presidential immunity.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

There is no presidential immunity from civil litigation arising from actions before a person’s presidency.


Clinton was elected in 1992 and reelected in 1996. Prior to his presidency, he was the Governor of Arkansas. At that time, Jones was an employee of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission. She alleged that at a conference in 1991, a police officer persuaded her to leave the desk she was working to meet him in a hotel room, where he then made sexual advances that she rejected. She also claimed that following that incident, her superiors treated her in a hostile manner and changed her job duties. Jones sued Clinton in 1994 for this incident.


Does the President have temporary immunity from civil litigation arising out of events that took place before he took office?


No, he does not.


None of the three prior cases against sitting presidents provide any relevant precedent.

The principal rationale for affording certain public servants immunity from suits for money damages arising out of their official acts–that it serves the public interest in enabling such officials to perform their functions without fear of personal liability–does not apply in this case.

There is no precedent that supports the President’s supposed immunity from suit for unofficial acts grounded purely in the fact that he is President.

There is no significant risk of frivolous litigation as a result of this decision.

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