The U.S. Supreme Court opened its annual session Monday and one of its first actions was dealing former President Bill Clinton a legal setback.
Without explanation, the high court suspended Mr. Clinton from the Supreme Court bar. That means that Mr. Clinton will not be able to argue cases before the Supreme Court. He now has 40 days to say why he should not be permanently disbarred.
The high court action comes in the wake of a decision in Mr. Clinton's home state of Arkansas to suspend his law license for five years beginning last April.
Mr. Clinton also paid a $25,000 fine as part of an agreement shortly before he left office in January with Independent Counsel Robert Ray to close the Monica Lewinsky investigation.
Mr. Clinton has given no indication that he intends to practice law again and most lawyers admitted to the Supreme Court Bar never actually argue a case there. But the right to appear before the high court is considered an honor.
On the first day of its new term, the Supreme Court rejected a plea from Oklahoma bombing co-defendant Terry Nichols for a new trial. Nichols argued he should get a new trial in light of the FBI's failure to turn over documents to defense lawyers for Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh was executed for his role in the bombing in June.
The high court is preparing to hear a range of important cases during this session, including whether it is constitutional to execute criminals who are mentally retarded and whether public funds should be used to educate students at church-run schools.