Jones's Difficult Task: Winning an Appeal
WASHINGTON — What is the likelihood that an appeal by Paula Jones's legal team will succeed?
Very slight, legal analysts say. Because federal Judge Susan Webber Wright has based her decision primarily on facts in the case - not on points of law - she leaves only a small target for appeal. In federal court, a ruling that relies on facts - what specific claims Ms. Jones made, what her best case is based on the evidence - must meet an extraordinarily high standard to be reversed, they say.
Much of the judge's 39-page ruling is devoted to a review of specific factual claims made by Ms. Jones, an Arkansas employee when she met then-Governor Clinton seven years ago. It detailed nearly every comment Jones made about what Mr. Clinton said and did.
But some experts see possible openings for the Jones team in Wednesday's ruling. They say her lawyers could argue on appeal that Judge Wright usurped the role of the jury in deciding that the facts of the case had no merit. Moreover, Jones could seek grounds for appeal in several areas of sexual-harassment case law.
The first, "quid pro quo," concerns the charge that sex was solicited in exchange for something else - such as a job promotion or to avoid job loss. In the case of Jones v. Clinton, there is little factual evidence that points to a quid pro quo, and it seems unpromising as grounds for appeal.
The second, concerning the workplace environment, requires a victim to show not only that the harassment was severe enough to bring a claim, but also that the aggressor continued the behavior even after the victim said it was unwelcome. In Jones's case, there was a single encounter of disputed severity. Jones claims Clinton took his pants down. But experts such as Deborah Epstein of Georgetown University Law School point out cases far more severe in federal court - even rape on the job - that have not been prosecuted.
Finally, Jones can make a tort claim of sexual assault, which has a criminal penalty. It involves proof of unwanted touching. Experts say Jones's time period for such a claim is surely over.