William H. Ginsburg has died in Sherman Oaks, CA of cancer at the age of 70. Ginsberg represented Monica Lewinsky, the intern who carried on an affair with then-president Bill Clinton which culminated in Clinton’s impeachment.
Prior to the Lewinsky investigation, Ginsburg was a highly successful medical malpractice lawyer. He took on unpopular clients, such as the doctor who was accused of covering up Liberace’s death from AIDS and the cardiologist who examined Loyola Marymount University basketball star Hank Gathers just prior to the game in which Gathers died of a heart attack on the court.
But Ginsburg became famous defending Lewinsky, whom he called “poor little Monica” and whose father was a friend of his. He got into hot water with critics during his time representing Lewinsky, as they felt he was out of his league. They pointed out that he failed to immediately secure either early plea bargaining or immunity for her, that he made incendiary statements not helpful to his client, and that he was a publicity hound, having appeared on all five major Sunday political talk shows on Feb. 1, 1998 (a tactic later derided when used by others as “the full Ginsburg”).
Lewinsky’s family ultimately replaced Ginsburg with the seasoned lawyers Jacob A. Stein and Plato Cacheris. Ginsburg had created a furor when he wrote an open letter to independent counsel Kenneth Starr saying, “Congratulations, Mr. Starr! As a result of your callous disregard for cherished constitutional rights, you may have succeeded in unmasking a sexual relationship between two consenting adults.”
Ginsburg was born in Philadelphia on March 25, 1943, and grew up in Los Angeles with his family in the 1950s. He studied political science and drama at the University of California at Berkeley and graduated from the University of Southern California Law school in 1967.
During his association with the Lewinsky case, Ginsburg’s statements sometimes bordered on the irrational. He said, ”No one ever lies. People often do what they have to do to make their story sound right.” Years later, he had a ready riposte to critics: He said in 1998, “Bah, humbug! After you have handled a few high-profile and high-pressure jury trials, then come back and comment. Until then, may I suggest that you curb your tongues and your criticism.”