Kenneth Winston Starr (born July 21, 1946) is an American lawyer and former judge who was appointed to the Office of the Independent Counsel to investigate the suicide death of the deputy White House counsel Vince Foster and the Whitewater land transactions by President Bill Clinton. He later submitted to Congress the Starr Report, which led to Clinton's impeachment on charges arising from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He currently serves as dean of Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California.
He first attended Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, where he belonged to the Young Democrats and wrote in support of Vietnam protesters, but transferred to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he received his bachelor of arts degree in 1968. During his time at The George Washington University, Starr was a member of Delta Phi Epsilon , a Professional Foreign Service Fraternity. Starr worked for the Southwestern Company. He later attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, (M.A, 1969) and Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, (J.D., 1973). Starr did not go to Vietnam, classified 4-F, due to a case of psoriasis.
He joined the staff of the Los Angeles-based law firm Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher in 1977, working out of their Washington office. He was appointed counselor to U.S. Attorney General William French Smith in 1981.
The Special Division, the three-judge panel that named Starr, was led by Judge David Sentelle, an appointee of President Reagan and a protege of Senator Jesse Helms. On July 14, 1994, Helms, fellow Republican senator Lauch Faircloth, and Sentelle met for lunch in the Senate cafeteria. All three initially denied having discussed the upcoming independent counsel appointment, though later Sentelle admitted that it "may" have come up in conversation. Sentelle also acknowledged that he was looking for a Republican "who had been active on the other side of the political fence" to head the new investigation, in keeping with the tradition of such independent counsels as Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski (then known as special prosecutors). One of the other judges on the panel was a Democratic appointee to the bench; he registered no dissent over Starr's appointment.
On August 5, Starr was named independent counsel. The Special Division's written statement emphasized that the judges found no fault with the investigation up to that point by Robert Fiske, a moderate Republican appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno, but the newly reenacted law, signed by President Clinton, said that Independent Counsels must be chosen by the three-judge panel and not by the administration under investigation. Although Starr and other independent counsels were later criticized as unaccountable and unstoppable, the statute gave the Attorney General and the Special Division the authority to remove an independent counsel, and the Special Division used it in at least one instance.
Starr took the job part-time and remained active with his law firm, Kirkland & Ellis. This too had been the norm with previous independent counsels, and the statute expressly permitted it. As time went on, however, Starr was increasingly criticized for alleged conflicts of interest stemming from the connection. Kirkland, like other major law firms, represents clients in litigation with the government, including tobacco companies and auto manufacturers. The firm itself at the time was being sued by the Resolution Trust Company, a government agency tangentially involved in the Whitewater matter, and Starr had on one occasion talked with lawyers for Paula Jones, who was suing President Clinton over an alleged sexual assault. Starr told the lawyers why he believed that presidents are not immune to civil suit. When this constitutional issue ultimately reached the Supreme Court, the justices unanimously agreed.
During the deposition in the Jones case, Clinton was asked "Have you ever had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, as that term is defined in Deposition Exhibit 1, as modified by the Court." The definition included contact with the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of a person with an intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of that person, any contact of the genitals or anus of another person, or contact of one's genitals or anus and any part of another person's body either directly or through clothing. The judge ordered that Clinton be given an opportunity to review the agreed definition. Clinton flatly denied having sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky. Later, at the Starr Grand Jury, Clinton stated that he believed the definition of sexual relations agreed upon for the Jones deposition excluded his receiving oral sex.
Starr's investigation eventually led to the impeachment of President Clinton, with whom Starr shared Time's Man of the Year designation for 1998. Despite his impeachment, the President was acquitted in the subsequent trial before the United States Senate and was not removed from office.
Most importantly, the now-defunct monthly magazine Brill's Content accused Starr's office of leaking grand jury testimony in violation of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, based in part on editor Stephen Brill's interview with Starr himself. Acting on motions of Clinton defense attorneys, in July 1998, US District Court Judge Norma Holloway Johnson ordered an investigation into whether Starr's office had improperly leaked grand jury information. She further authorized President Clinton's lawyers to conduct the investigation by subpoenaing and questioning Starr and members of his staff under oath. The federal appeals court in Washington reversed Judge Johnson's decision and said that any investigation would have to be conducted by a court-appointed Special Master, not by President Clinton's lawyers.
Throughout the leak controversy, Starr's office maintained that the information alleged to have been leaked was not uniquely available to it, but was also possessed by Clinton's lawyers, who monitored the grand jury through witnesses' lawyers participation in a joint defense arrangement, and who may have strategically leaked it in order to neutralize the damage and at the same time to blame Starr. After an investigation, a Special Master concluded that no evidence indicated that Starr's office had unlawfully leaked grand jury information. During the leak investigation, however, Charles Bakaly, spokesman for Starr's office, resigned on March 11, 1999. He was later charged with having signed a false affidavit, but acquitted at trial on October 6, 2000. Critics such as Joe Conason and Gene Lyons maintain that the Starr office systematically leaked grand jury information to the press.
On April 6, 2004, he was appointed dean of Pepperdine University's School of Law. He originally accepted another Pepperdine post in 1996; however, he withdrew from the appointment in 1998, several months after the Lewinsky controversy erupted. Critics charged that there was a conflict of interest due to substantial donations to Pepperdine from billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, a Clinton critic who funded many media outlets attacking the president. (Scaife's money, however, supported the Foster-was-murdered theory, according to CNN, and Scaife defunded The American Spectator after it endorsed Starr's conclusion of suicide and mocked a Scaife-aided book.) In 2004, some five years after President Clinton's impeachment, Starr was again offered a Pepperdine position and this time accepted it.
On January 26, 2006, the defense team of convicted murderer Michael Morales (which included Starr) sent letters to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger requesting clemency for Morales . Letters purportedly from the jurors who determined Morales's death sentence were included in the package sent to Schwarzenegger.
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