Kenneth Starr biography

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Kenneth Starr biography

Lawyer, judge, independent counsel invesigator. Born July 21, 1946, in Vernon, Texas, to W. D. and Vannie Maude (Trimble) Starr. His father was a Church of Christ minister in the town of Thalia and moonlighted as a barber for extra money. He raised Starr to shun smoking and drinking. The family, which included Starr's older sister Billie and his big brother Jerry, moved to San Antonio, Texas when Starr was still in grade school. Starr was an immaculate youngster who as an adolescent polished his and his father's shoes each night. Starr briefly attended Harding College, a Christian campus in Searcy, Arkansas, selling Bibles door-to-door during the summer to raise tuition money. He transferred to George Washington University after a year and a half, where he was an editor at the college newspaper. When most students were letting their hair grow, adopting a casual dress, and protesting the Vietnam War, Starr suited up in a jacket and tie daily and supported American troops in Vietnam, although his psoriasis prevented him from entering military service. Though he disagreed with anti-war activists, he did support their right to demonstrate, as he outlined in the campus paper, and actively campaigned for Lyndon B. Johnson as a member of the Young Democrats. Starr graduated from George Washington in 1968 and got his master's degree from Brown University the following year. He went on to excel in law school at Duke University, obtaining his juris doctorate in 1973. Meanwhile, on August 23, 1970, he married Alice Jean Mendell, who is now a public relations executive. Right out of law school, Starr began clerking for the U.S. Court of Appeals Judge David Dyer in Miami's fifth circuit from 1973 to 1974, then nabbed a coveted position as a clerk for Warren E. Burger, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, from 1975 to 1977. After that important role, Starr joined the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington, D.C., as an associate in 1977 and worked his way up to partner. There he met William French Smith, a friend of Ronald Reagan. Smith was named Reagan's first attorney general in 1981, and asked Starr to be his chief of staff. Though it was a financial step down from his six-figure salary in the private sector, Starr took the position. He figured it could be a stepping stone to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., where many Supreme Court justices got their start, and he was right. Reagan appointed him to the court in 1983.

In this role, Starr developed a reputation as a moderate conservative. He was against affirmative action, but protective of the First Amendment, most memorably in a decision for the Washington Post protecting it from a libel suit brought by William P. Tavoulareas, chair of the Mobil Corporation. In a move rare among justices, Starr stepped down from the bench in 1989 to become the solicitor general under President George Bush. The solicitor general bridges the executive and judicial branches of the government, arguing the position of the president's administration in front of the Supreme Court. Starr did not jump on this offer right away, taking several days to contemplate it. "I really loved being a judge on that court," he told Neil A. Lewis in the New York Times. Though liberals were initially relieved that the office was no longer held by Charles Fried, a Reagan conservative who many believed used the office to further right-wing causes, Starr proved to hold many of the same positions. Regarding a case in Minnesota, he supported anti-abortion forces, who wanted a law stating that both parents must be notified when a minor seeks an abortion. He also argued that burning the U.S. flag should be illegal. Liberals disliked his harsh stance against abortion rights, yet his own party felt he was too moderate to warrant an appointment to the Supreme Court when a seat became vacant on the bench in 1990. Bush named David Souter instead, and when Democrat Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, Starr returned to private practice with the Washington, D.C., office of the Chicago-based firm, Kirkland & Ellis, with a salary reported to be in excess of a million dollars. After leaving the solicitor general job, Starr considered running in Virginia's Republican senate primary before taking the position with Kirkland & Ellis. The government, however, soon beckoned again. In November of 1993, the Senate Ethics Committee called upon Starr, asking him to peruse Senator Bob Packwood's diaries when he was embroiled in sexual misconduct accusations. Then, Starr was recruited to replace Robert Fiske as an independent counsel. In this position, an attorney is chosen to investigate high-profile cases in the government. They are meant to be nonpartisan and neutral and do not have to answer to any governmental body. A number of vocal Democrats, and even some Republicans, felt that Starr was too involved in Republican politics to satisfy the terms of the job, but Starr vowed objectivity.

The law creating the role, forged in the late 1970s, was about to expire in 1994 when Clinton renewed it, against the warning of former President George Bush. Five weeks later, a panel of three federal judges put Starr to work investigating The Whitewater Scandal. The Whitewater case involved a defunct corporation called Whitewater Development that dealt with real estate, and Madison Guaranty, a bankrupt savings and loan. Allegedly, President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton were enmeshed in some illegal dealings with these firms. Starr, following his nose, began turning up more and more activities of persons related to the case that he thought should be pursued. He began investigating Webster Hubbell, the former deputy attorney general and a partner in Hillary Clinton's law firm, for fraud and tax evasion. He also accused Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker and James and Susan McDougal, longstanding business partners of President Clinton, of fraud. All were eventually convicted of wrongdoing or entered pleas, which led to the unseating and imprisonment of Governor Tucker and jail time for others as well. Quite a few others were also brought down in the process--13 in all. Starr also sought testimony from Susan McDougal in front of an Arkansas grand jury regarding the Clinton's involvement in Whitewater, but she refused. She went to jail for contempt of court. Starr later pursued Hubbell, his wife, their accountant, and their tax attorney in 1998 for tax evasion in what some thought was a hardball move to get Hubbell to confess wrongdoing on the part of the Clintons. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton was caught up in yet another case. Paula Corbin Jones had filed a sexual harassment suit against the president claiming that he asked her for sexual favors in a hotel room. Though the case was eventually dropped, a number of women were called to the stand to testify whether or not they had sexual encounters with the president. One of the witnesses was Monica Lewinsky, a young White House intern. When asked under oath if this was true, both she and Clinton denied it. In a move that riled up the American public, Starr in January of 1998 revealed that Clinton may have lied under oath and pressured Lewinsky to lie in court to protect himself. If this was proven to be true, the president would be guilty of perjury. Immediately, more cries of impeachment were heard, but Republicans backed off when the president's approval ratings soared up to 80 percent in some polls. After that allegation, Starr focused his energies on trying to prove whether or not the president lied about his relationship with Lewinsky.

Clinton again publicly declared that he never had sexual relations with her, but Starr produced a set of tapes indicating that he had. Linda Tripp, a colleague of Lewinsky's, had made numerous recordings of conversations when the two of them had been friends working together at the Pentagon. The tapes also implied that Clinton urged Lewinsky to lie about their affair. A flurry of stories emerged in the media questioning motives and probing into the characters of both women. Starr plugged away, calling Lewinsky's mother to testify against her daughter in a move that was heavily criticized and did nothing to increase sympathy for the prosecution. Sordid details were revealed in the press, from the particular sex act that Clinton and Lewinsky supposedly engaged in, to rumors that she owned a dress that was stained with presidential semen (subsequent testing of the garment proved no such substance). Starr even obtained bookstore receipts revealing the young woman's choice of reading materials. He called on White House aides and Secret Service personnel to testify against the president and requiring Lewinsky to submit fingerprints and handwriting samples. Critics sniped at Starr continuously throughout the investigation. Early on, his detractors accused him of partisanship; this peaked in early 1998 when First Lady Hilary Rodham Clinton publicly charged him with being part of a right-wing conspiracy against her husband. Then, some took him to task for continuing his private work while pursuing Whitewater. Even though it was not illegal, many believed it was improper and unusual and came very close to being a conflict of interest. Starr, it was noted, had been representing big-business clients, such as General Motors, Brown & Williamson tobacco company, Southwestern Bell Telephone, and the NFL Players Association. Others complained that well over $30 million and close to four years had been spent on investigating a popular president, without proving any wrongdoing on his part. As the Whitewater case dragged on for years, the complaints grew louder. The investigation reached a critical point in the summer of 1998 when Starr submitted a lengthy report to Congress, which was made available to the public over the Internet and in book form. Tapes of the president's grand jury testimony regarding his relationship with Lewinsky were soon made public as well. Though Clinton did not admit, technically, to having sexual relations with Lewinsky, he revealed that he had an "improper relationship" with the intern, who was 21 years old when the incidents began.

He apologized to his wife and family, but did not bow to pressure from some to resign. In September, Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Illinois) announced that the committee would begin looking into possible impeachment procedures in an open session in early October of 1998. If the measure passed, the House would vote on proceedings shortly thereafter. The country was embroiled in the scandal and potential loss of a president, the first time since Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 after impeachment proceedings began as a result of his involvement in the Watergate affair. However, polls consistently indicated a majority of the country approved of the president and did not support impeachment. Nonetheless an impeachment hearing was conducted by the House of Representatives; on December 19, 1998, the House ruled to impeach Clinton on charges of lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice in the Lewinsky affair. This made Clinton only the second president in U.S. history to face a Senate impeachment hearing. The Senate conducted a 21-day impeachment trial with Chief Justice William Rehnquist presiding. Following three days of secret deliberations, on February 12, 1999, the Senate voted 55 to 45 to reject the first article of impeachment, which alleged that President Clinton had lied while under oath in his grand jury testimony for the Paula Jones case, and voted 50 to 50 on the second article, which charged that the president had obstructed justice in covering up his relationship with Lewinsky. Without the two-thirds majority on either charge, Clinton was acquitted. Starr was under attack throughout much of his investigations of the president and first lady. In October 1999 he resigned from his post as Independent Counsel and was replaced by Robert Ray. It is estimated that Starr spent about $50 million during his term investigating President and Mrs. Clinton. .

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