We were really excited that the law firm of King & Spalding had backed out from defending DOMA, which is one of Boehner’s Bad Budgeting Ideas.
However we were less excited to hear that Paul Clement, the King & Spalding lawyer who had taken the case for $520-$900/hour (mixed reports), had decided that he’d rather quit his law firm then quit this fantastic new job defending DOMA.
Clement, who probably feels really famous and rich today, has written a cloyingly eloquent letter to defend his decision. I’m sure many will find this defense really sensible and lovely, but it makes me want to stick forks in my eyes and scream real loud:
My resignation is, of course, prompted by the firm’s decision to withdraw as counsel for the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the Untied States House of Representatives in defense of Section III of the Defense of Marriage Act. To be clear, I take this step not because of strongly held views about this statute. My thoughts about the merits of DOMA are as irrelevant as my views about the dozens of federal statues that I defended as Solicitor General.
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.
Okay, time out! “Extremely unpopular”? How about “supports legalized discrimination of US citizens”? Anyhow.
Defending unpopular decisions is what lawyers do. The adversary system of justice depends on it, especially in cases where passions run high.
That’s so weird, how passionate people become about how their tax dollars are spent!
Efforts to delegitimize any representation for one side of a legal controversy are a profound threat to the rule of law. Much has been said about being on the wrong side of history. But being on the right or the wrong side of history on the merits is a question for the clients. When it comes to the lawyers, the surest way to be on the wrong side of history is to abandon a client in the face of hostile criticism.
You hear that Left Wing Media Gay Liberal Communist Mafia? Your HOSTILE defense of EQUALITY is not going to deter Paul Clement from defending DOMA because he is the only lawyer in the entire world. Everyone else is busy dealing with non-violent drug offenders.
I would have never undertaken this matter unless I beleived I had the full backing of the firm. I recognized from the outset that the 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.
You can read the entire letter here. He goes on to break Rule #3 of Lesbian Fight Club while simultaneously name-dropping a former partner of the firm and then announce that he’s got a new job with Bancroft PLLC, a firm with deep ties to the GOP. Isn’t it funny that even though Clement doesn’t necessarily have any affection for DOMA, he’s chosen to go with a firm so consistently affiliated with conservative politics?
In The LA Times, Maya Rupert addresses the fallacies in this argument (although she wrote it in argument to another LA Times editorial, not to Clement’s letter):
The Times takes the curious step of extending the familiar maxim that “every person deserves a lawyer” to the more expansive “every position deserves a lawyer.” The first is a fundamental right upon which we base our criminal justice system. The other is a fiction that mistakenly seeks to insulate a shortsighted law firm from criticism for its decision to defend a discriminatory law. . . .
Civil liberties organizations, for example, have repeatedly, and admirably, defended plaintiffs whose views they abhor (such as members of the Ku Klux Klan), in order to protect cherished principles like freedom of speech and assembly. In this case, there is no greater good, no cherished larger issue at stake; the only issue contested is discrimination. There is no venerable tradition of lawyers defending laws that single out certain groups for discrimination….
A private lawyer is under no obligation — from a state bar, pursuant to ethical rules, or out of respect for the adversarial process — to defend an indefensible law. Those who choose to defend such a law do so at the peril of their reputations as fair-minded and just advocates. Clement has made a decision not just to stand on the wrong side of history but to lead the charge on that side . . . He is free to do so, but we should not pretend that decision represents a magnanimous fidelity to the adversarial process or to justice.
Bancroft PLLC, by the way, was founded by Viet D. Dinh, the “the chief architect of the USA PATRIOT Act,” and his firm has been involved in a lot of homeland security legislation. Dinh was Assistant Attorney General of the US from 2001 to 2003 under George W.Bush’s presidency. The Senate confirmed him 96-1 and that one No vote came form our girlfriend Hillary Clinton.
Need we say more? These are the people with the money and these are the things they do to earn and keep additional money.
I hope everyone makes lots of money and Paul Clement gets a really nice swimming pool, like this one: