Kenneth Starr

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Person.png Kenneth Starr   NNDB SourcewatchRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Kenneth W. Starr.jpg
BornKenneth Winston Starr
July 21, 1946
Vernon, Texas, U.S.
DiedSeptember 13, 2022 (Age 76)
Alma materGeorge Washington University, Brown University, Duke University/School of Law
SpouseAlice Mendell
PartyDemocratic, Republican
Washington "fixer" lawyer who led Whitewater and Vince Foster soft-peddling investigations into Bill Clinton. Also fought tooth-and-nail to have prosecutors to drop a sex-trafficking case against Jeffrey Epstein

Employment.png Solicitor General of the United States Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
May 26, 1989 - January 20, 1993

Employment.png President and Chancellor

In office
November 11, 2013 - 2016
EmployerBaylor University

Employment.png Independent Counsel for the Whitewater controversy

In office
August 5, 1994 - September 11, 1998

Kenneth Winston Starr is an American lawyer who was a United States circuit judge and 39th solicitor general of the United States. He is best known for leading an extended and inconclusive - but soft-peddling by avoiding any deep politics - investigation of Bill Clinton, and for in 2008 waging a "scorched-earth" legal campaign to persuade federal prosecutors to drop a sex-trafficking case against the deep state actor and blackmailer Jeffrey Epstein.

Starr worked as federal Court of Appeals judge and as solicitor general for George H. W. Bush. He received the most public attention for his tenure as independent counsel while Bill Clinton was U.S. president. Starr was initially appointed to investigate the suicide of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster and the Whitewater real estate investments of Bill Clinton. The three-judge panel charged with administering the Ethics in Government Act later expanded the inquiry into numerous areas including suspected perjury about Bill Clinton's sexual activity with Monica Lewinsky. After more than four years of investigation, Starr filed the Starr Report, which alleged that Bill Clinton lied about the existence of the affair during a sworn deposition. The allegation led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the five-year suspension of Clinton's law license.

Starr became dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law. He was later the president and chancellor of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, from June 2010 until May 2016, and was the Louise L. Morrison chair of constitutional law at Baylor Law School. On May 26, 2016, following an investigation into the mishandling by Starr of several sexual assaults at the school, Baylor University's board of regents announced that Starr's tenure as university president would end on May 31.[1] The board said he would continue as chancellor, but on June 1, Starr told ESPN that he would resign his position effective immediately.[2] On August 19, 2016, Starr announced he would resign from his tenured professor position at Baylor Law School, completely severing his ties with the university in a "mutually agreed separation".[3]

On January 17, 2020, Starr joined President Donald Trump's legal team during his first impeachment trial.[4][5]

Early life

Starr was born near Vernon, Texas, and was raised in Centerville, Texas. His father was a minister in the Churches of Christ who also worked as a barber. Starr attended Sam Houston High School in San Antonio and was a popular, straight‑A student. His classmates voted him most likely to succeed.[6]

In 1970, Starr married Alice Mendell, who was raised Jewish but converted to Christianity.[7][8][9]


Starr attended the Churches of Christ–affiliated Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, where he was an honor student, a member of the Young Democrats[10] and a vocal supporter of Vietnam protesters.[11] He later transferred to George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, in 1968. While there, he became a member of Delta Phi Epsilon.[12]

Starr was not drafted for military service during the Vietnam War, as he was classified 4‑F, because he has psoriasis.[13] He worked in the Southwestern Advantage entrepreneurial program and later attended Brown University, where he earned a Master of Arts degree in 1969, and then Duke University School of Law, getting a J.D. in 1973.[14]

Legal career

After his graduation from Duke, Starr worked as a law clerk for U.S. circuit judge David W. Dyer of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (1973–1974). Later, he clerked for Chief Justice Warren Burger of the Supreme Court of the United States (1975–77).

He joined the Washington, D.C., office of the Los Angeles–based law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in 1977.[15] He was appointed counselor to U.S. attorney general William French Smith in 1981.

On September 13, 1983, he was nominated by Ronald Reagan to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated by George MacKinnon. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on September 20, 1983, and received his commission on September 20, 1983. His service terminated on May 26, 1989, due to resignation.[16]

Starr was the United States solicitor general, from 1989 to 1993, under George H. W. Bush.

Early 1990s

When the Senate Ethics committee needed someone to review Republican senator Bob Packwood's diaries, the committee chose Starr. In 1990, Starr was the leading candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court nomination after William Brennan's retirement. He encountered strong resistance from the Department of Justice leadership, which feared that Starr might not be reliably conservative as a Supreme Court justice. George H. W. Bush nominated David Souter instead of Starr.[17] Starr also considered running for the United States Senate, from Virginia in 1994, against incumbent Chuck Robb, but opted against opposing Oliver North for the Republican nomination.

Independent counsel

Full article: Stub class article Whitewater


In August 1994, pursuant to the newly reauthorized Ethics in Government Act (28 U.S.C. § 593(b)), Starr was appointed by a special three-judge division of the D.C. Circuit to continue the Whitewater investigation.[18] He replaced Robert B. Fiske, a moderate Republican who had been appointed by attorney general Janet Reno.

Starr took the position part-time and remained active with his law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, as this was permitted by statute and was also the norm with previous independent counsel investigations.[19] As time went on, however, Starr was increasingly criticized for alleged conflicts of interest stemming from his continuing association with Kirkland & Ellis. Kirkland, like several other major law firms, was representing clients in litigation with the government, including tobacco companies and auto manufacturers. The firm itself was being sued by the Resolution Trust Company, a government agency involved in the Whitewater matter. Additionally, Starr's own actions were challenged because Starr had, on one occasion, talked with lawyers for Paula Jones, who was suing Bill Clinton over an alleged sexual harassment. Starr had explained to them why he believed that sitting U.S. presidents are not immune to civil suit.[20][21]

Investigation of the death of Vince Foster

Full article: Vince Foster

On October 10, 1997, Starr's report on the death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster, drafted largely by Starr's deputy Brett Kavanaugh, was released to the public by the Special Division. The complete report is 137 pages long and includes an appendix added to the Report by the Special Division over Starr's objection.[22] The report agrees with the findings of previous independent counsel Robert B. Fiske that Foster committed suicide at Fort Marcy Park, in Virginia, and that his suicide was caused primarily by undiagnosed and untreated depression.

Expansion of the investigation

The law conferred broad investigative powers on Starr and the other independent counsels named to investigate the administration, including the right to subpoena nearly anyone who might have information relevant to the particular investigation. Starr would later receive authority to conduct additional investigations, including the firing of White House Travel Office personnel, potential political abuse of confidential FBI files, Madison Guaranty, Rose Law Firm, Paula Jones lawsuit and, most notoriously, possible perjury and obstruction of justice to cover up President Clinton's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. The Lewinsky portion of the investigation included the secret taping of conversations between Lewinsky and coworker Linda Tripp, requests by Starr to tape Lewinsky's conversations with Clinton, and requests by Starr to compel Secret Service agents to testify about what they might have seen while guarding Clinton. With the investigation of Clinton's possible adultery, critics of Starr believed that he had crossed a line and was acting more as a political hit man than as a prosecutor.[23]

Clinton–Lewinsky scandal, Paula Jones lawsuit

In his deposition for the Paula Jones lawsuit, Clinton denied having "sexual relations" with Monica Lewinsky. On the basis of the evidence provided by Monica Lewinsky, a blue dress with Clinton's semen, Ken Starr concluded that this sworn testimony was false and perjurious.

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.[24][25] The judge ordered that Clinton be given an opportunity to review the agreed definition. Clinton flatly denied having sexual relations with Lewinsky.[26] 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 as all 45 Democrats and 10 Republicans voted to acquit.

Post-independent counsel activities

After five years as independent counsel, Starr resigned and returned to private practice as an appellate lawyer and a visiting professor at New York University, the Chapman University School of Law, and the George Mason University School of Law. Starr worked as a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, specializing in litigation. He was one of the lead attorneys in a class-action lawsuit filed by a coalition of liberal and conservative groups (including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association) against the regulations created by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, known informally as McCain-Feingold Act. In the case, Starr argued that the law was an unconstitutional abridgment of free speech.

On April 6, 2004, he was appointed dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law. He originally accepted a position at Pepperdine as the first dean of the newly created School of Public Policy 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 at the School of Law and this time accepted it.


In 2008, Starr waged a "scorched-earth" legal campaign to persuade federal prosecutors to drop a sex-trafficking case against the deep state actor and blackmailer Jeffrey Epstein. Starr a “fixer” who “used his political connections in the White House to get the Justice Department to review Epstein’s case”.[27]

When Epstein’s lawyers appeared to be failing in their pressure campaign, with senior DoJ officials concluding that Epstein was ripe for federal prosecution, Starr pulled out the stops. He wrote an eight-page letter to Mark Filip, who had just been confirmed as deputy US attorney general, the second most powerful prosecutor in the country. Filip was a former colleague of Starr’s at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis.

Given the number of victims and the severity of the allegations, Epstein got off exceptionally lightly with a sentence that saw him serve just 13 months in jail, where he was allowed out to work in his private office for 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Asking for clemency for abusing teacher

Christopher Kloman was a well-connected teacher at the private Potomac School in McLean, Virginia who was convicted of abusing his students for decades. During the process, Starr was one of the signatures in a letter to Kloman's sentencing judge. The letter of support from some extremely powerful Washingtonians, begged the judge not to send Kloman to prison. Starr wrote "Mr. Kloman is currently repenting for his past sins and will continue to do so if given a chance to serve his community and neighbors. Community service would be a far better punishment than having him languish in jail."[28][29] Kloman eventually received a 43-year prison sentence in October 2013.[30]


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  12. {
  15. BACKGROUND: KENNETH W. STARR. (2010, February 16). Dallas News.
  20. {
  21. When this constitutional question ultimately reached the Supreme Court, the justices unanimously agreed.
  22.;view=1up;seq=7 Appendix to the Report on the Death of Vincent W. Foster, Jr.
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