Marcia Clark's private trial is slow in unfolding

  Jonathan T. Lovitt ; Richard Price


  USA Today


  Page 05A

  (Copyright 1995)


  LOS ANGELES - Judge Lance Ito may hold the more grueling courtroom

  assignment, but at least one other jurist here is feeling the pressure of the O.J.

  Simpson trial.


  Superior Court Commissioner Keith Clemens is deeply troubled in his role as

  arbiter of a child custody battle between Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark and

  her estranged husband, Gordon Clark, according to tapes of a conference with



  -- On one side, Clemens has Marcia Clark fighting to keep the story out of the

  media. Delaying the battle is her only way of doing that since a judge refused in

  March to seal records. The ruling touched off stories on intimate details of the



  -- On the other side, Clemens has Gordon Clark demanding a speedy decision.

  Clark is furious over the commissioner's failure to schedule a hearing despite a

  half-dozen requests since he filed Feb. 27 for custody of their children, ages 2

  1/2 and 5. Marcia Clark filed for divorce June 9.


  The delay is unusual. Even Clemens' clerk, Virginia Hirano, says custody

  hearings usually "have priority. This one is dragging." Clemens will not discuss

  the case.


  "It's fairly clear that if this were just another case, the judge would be moving a

  little faster," says lawyer William Johnson.


  The tapes of an April 26 conference show Clemens worries that "whatever is

  placed in the court file you can expect to read about at Ralph's (supermarket)

  while you're waiting to check out."


  Gordon Clark claims his two boys "are starved for attention" and spend all their

  time with baby sitters.


  Marcia Clark has implied in court papers that she could offer specific allegations

  against her husband in his treatment of the children, including medical issues.


  Each denies the others' charges.


  Clemens fears the case will explode if he allows a hearing.


  Gordon Clark argues his wife's fame shouldn't obstruct his right to a hearing.

  Noting she's delayed two scheduled depositions, he calls it a stall and charges

  she's using her influence to create the delay.


  "It's our view (Marcia) will delay this forever," says Gordon Clark's lawyer,

  Roslyn Soudry.


  Says Marcia Clark's lawyer, Judith Forman: Her "only concern is for the welfare

  of her children. She has never thought it would be in the best interest of the

  children to discuss any facts of this case in the media."

  PHOTO,b/w,John McCoy