The Justice Department has sent the White House its legal research on the question of whether the President can be sued while in office but has not reached a conclusion on the matter, Administration officials said Thursday.
The officials said the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel will not write a formal legal opinion on the President's immunity from lawsuits. But they said the office is continuing to research the matter in preparation for filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the sexual harassment lawsuit filed earlier this month against President Clinton.
Administration officials said the department may be asked by the court in the case to state its views on the immunity issue or may file a brief even without being asked, a common practice in cases where the government's interest is implicated.
The lawsuit against Clinton by a former Arkansas state employee, Paula Corbin Jones, raises the unprecedented question of whether a President, while in office, can be subjected to a civil suit unrelated to his official duties. The Supreme Court has said the President cannot be sued for his official acts but has not resolved the question of whether that protection extends to his private activities.