Bil Browning

King and Spalding Drops DOMA Defense

Filed By Bil Browning | April 25, 2011 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, House of Representatives, John Boehner, King & Spalding

Looks like John Boehner is going to have to find a new law firm to denigrate gay and lesbian couples. Facing stiff opposition to their contract with the House majority to defend DOMA, law firm King and Spalding has backed out of the case well... goodbyewith their tails tucked between their legs. In a statement released today from Chairman Robert D. Hays, Jr.:

Today the firm filed a motion to withdraw from its engagement to represent the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives on the constitutional issues regarding Section III of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Last week we worked diligently through the process required for withdrawal.

In reviewing this assignment further, I determined that the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate. Ultimately I am responsible for any mistakes that occurred and apologize for the challenges this may have created.

Partner Paul Clement, a former Solicitor General under President Bush II, had been tapped to lead the case. The contract with the House of Representatives forced all King and Spalding employees to refrain from any activity that could be construed as advocating for the end of DOMA - including LGBT employees. (imgsrc)

Update from Alex: Paul Clement is leaving King & Spalding to join another law firm and continue to defend the law:

Shortly after the firm announced that it would no longer take the case Paul Clement, former solicitor general under President George W. Bush and the partner charged with leading the firm's defense, submitted his letter of resignation to Hays, which was obtained by The Huffington Post.

Clement will be joining Bancroft PLLC, according to a press release from that firm, which is led by former Bush administration officials. Viet Dinh, who was an assistant attorney general from 2001-'03, is a founding partner, and H. Christopher Bartolomucci, who served as an associate counsel to President Bush between 2001-'03, is a partner.

You'd think that Clement really likes that law to resign from his firm just to defend it at a reduced rate. But he says that's unimportant:

"My thoughts about the merits of DOMA are as irrelevant as my views about the dozens of federal statutes that I defended as Solicitor General," he wrote in the letter. "Instead, I resign out of the firmly-held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client's legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters. Defending unpopular positions is what lawyers do."

No answer as to why this particular position needs him and not any of the other lawyers in America. It's not like there's such a shortage of lawyers that Paul Clement must defend it. One would think that DOMA was as unpopular and the House as poor as a mass murderer on death row the way conservatives are throwing around the "everyone deserves a lawyer" argument.


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Rick Sutton | April 25, 2011 3:01 PM

This is a great turn of events, huh? The managing partner withdraws, AND issues a statement that indicates he wishes the firm had vetted the client better.

Maybe I'm a cheap date, but we haven't had good news like this for awhile. Let me relish in it for a minute.

It renews my faith in the legal community. Well, kinda.

There was an update to that article:

UPDATE: Amanda Terkel reports that Clement has resigned from the firm. POLITICO's Josh Gerstein has more, including his resignation letter:

"I resign out of the firmly-held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client's legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters. Defending unpopular clients is what lawyers do ... I recognized from the outset that this statute implicates very sensitive issues that prompt strong views on both sides. But having undertaken the representation, I believe there is no honorable course for me but to complete it," writes Clement.

I love the excuse Clement uses about "everyone deserves a lawyer" as if the US government is an indigent accused of a crime. Lawyers have no requirement to take a civil case.