Kenneth Starr is best known as the independent counsel whose investigation led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998. But since 2004, Starr has been dean of Pepperdine University School of Law while maintaining a full-time law practice as of counsel at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. As an attorney, he's defended the right of California's family wineries to ship directly to consumers, but found his way back into the headlines when he worked to help death row inmates avoid execution. As dean, he teaches classes, meets with students and even corrects run-on sentences. His work in obtaining clemency for convicted murderer Robin Lovitt earned him an "Attorney of the Year" award from the California Lawyer for the 2006 pro-bono category. The son of a minister from San Antonio, Texas, he's loved politics and the law since he was young and his career has bridged both fields. After attending Duke University, Starr clerked for Chief Justice Warren Burger in the 1970s, when the High Court was dealing with the implementation of the Roe vs. Wade ruling and a number of landmark desegregation cases. He began his career at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Washington and went on to serve as a judge on the Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. and was U.S. Solicitor General from 1989 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush. Before his tenure as independent counsel, Starr was mentioned as a potential U.S. Supreme Court nominee.
Question: Does Whitewater ever feel like something you can't shake?
I really haven't had that experience. It's been some years now. For example in California, I think people tend to talk about my work on the wine cases. I've been very involved now for over three years in the wine-related litigation, so if I go to Northern California as I frequently do, the topic never arises. People want to talk about the latest on direct-shipping to consumers.
Q: Do you have any regrets about your involvement in the Lewinsky investigation?
I've said that the matter had to be investigated, but it would have been better, all things considered, for Attorney General Janet Reno to have appointed someone else to do the investigation. At that point the Whitewater and related investigations had all been given to us. We had not simply expanded the investigation, we had been asked to take on these additional matters. Thus a public perception emerged that the investigation was quasi-permanent in nature and just seemed odd in terms of its longevity.
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