Susan Webber Wright

Susan Webber Wright

Susan Webber Wright (born 1948) is a United States District Court judge presently serving as the chief judge of the Eastern District of Arkansas. She received national attention when she dismissed Paula Jones's sexual harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton in 1998.

Wright was a student of Clinton's in a class on admiralty law while at the University of Arkansas law school; she later challenged him on her grade. The dispute occurred after Clinton lost her final paper then offered her only a B-.

A conservative Republican, Wright worked for the reelection campaign of Republican Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt in 1974, who defeated Clinton by 6,000 votes in what was the future president's first run for political office.

Prior to her appointment to the federal bench, Judge Wright served as a law professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Law.

Wright was appointed to the Western District of Arkansas by President George H.W. Bush on September 21, 1989, to a seat vacated by Judge Elsijane Roy. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on January 23, 1990. She was later reassigned to the Eastern District of Arkansas, and became chief judge of that court in 1998.

Wright presided over Paula Jones's sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton. The claims were based on activity alleged to have taken place when Clinton was Governor of Arkansas and Jones worked in his office. Wright refused to grant Clinton absolute presidential immunity against the lawsuit, but nonetheless ruled that a sitting president could not be sued and deferred his trial until after his presidential term was over.fn|1 Her order was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirmed her ruling that Clinton was not entitled to absolute immunity, but reversed the stay Wright imposed, to allow Jones's lawsuit to continue without delay.fn|2

On April 1, 1998, Wright granted summary judgment to Clinton in a 39-page ruling that expressed exasperation with both Jones and her lawyers, and stated that she believed the case to be without legal merit.fn|3 Jones's appeal to the Eighth Circuit was dismissed when Clinton settled with her out of court.

Wright was also involved with Kenneth Starr's investigation of the Whitewater scandal, and issued numerous rulings that were both favorable and unfavorable to Clinton. Notably, Wright imprisoned Susan McDougal for the maximum 18 months for civil contempt of court when McDougal refused to answer "three questions" about whether President Bill Clinton lied in his testimony.

On June 26, 2006fn|4 Wright stayed the execution of an inmate Don William Davis who was convicted of capital murder for the 1992 execution style death of 62 year old Martha Jane Daniel a Rogers, Arkansas resident.fn|5


fnb|1 [ "Jones v. Clinton", 869 F.Supp. 690 (E.D. Ark. 1994)]

fnb|2 "Clinton v. Jones", 520 U.S. 681 (1997); see [ full text of the Court's decision]

fnb|3 [ "Jones v. Clinton", 990 F.Supp. 657 (E.D. Ark. 1998)]

fnb|4 "Susan Weber Wright stays execution of Terrick Terrell Nooner & Don William Davis" (June 26, 2006); see [ full text of Court's decision]

fnb|5 "Text account of crime" (July 5, 2006); []

External links

* [ Federal Judicial Center profile of Judge Wright]
* [ "Trial Judge in Jones Case, a Republican Appointee, Has Long Known Clinton"] , by Susan Schmidt. "Washington Post", May 29, 1997.
* [ Washington Post profile of Wright]

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