Tuesday's appellate court decision that President Clinton can be sued for sexual harassment while in office is a gain not only for Paula Corbin Jones, but also for the American people. While a sitting president must always be protected from frivolous lawsuits, our legal system must also protect the right of any citizen to seek retribution or compensation, be it from a copy machine repairman, the chief executive officer of a large company or the president of the United States.
Jones, like Anita Hill before her, has taken on one of the most powerful men in the country. It has been said that both Hill and Jones were used by political groups to further their own agendas, Hill by the feminist left and Jones by the conservative right. But Hill, who had no hard evidence and little credibility, was greatly boosted up by her feminist colleagues and a willing media. Jones has been vilified by the liberal press. And after the 1994 elections, she became expendable to even the few conservatives who had used her in the beginning.
Hill never offered any tangible evidence in her testimony during the Senate confirmation hearings on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and she was unable to produce corroborating testimony. After allegedly being harassed by Thomas, Hill had not only continued to work for him, but even followed him to his next job.
Jones, on the other hand, says she immediately fled the room after Clinton allegedly exposed himself in 1991 while he was governor of Arkansas and she was a state employee. She never contacted Clinton or sought to be in his presence again. Jones' attorney says there is plenty of corroborating evidence.
Our Constitution guarantees each person equal treatment under the law. The judge in Little Rock who ruled that the case could not be heard while Clinton is in office denied that right to Jones. Now Jones-- and Clinton-- can have their day in court. The Constitution was never meant to be used by public officials, even presidents, as a shield against that.