Law Firm Drops DOMA Defense
April 25 2011 9:50 AM ET
King and Spalding, the law firm tapped to represent House Republicans' defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, announced Monday that it is withdrawing from the case.
In a statement released this morning via a firm spokesman, King and Spalding Chairman Robert D. Hays, Jr. said:
“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.”
Paul D. Clement, former U.S. solicitor general under President George W. Bush and a partner at the firm, had been picked as lead outside counsel in one or more cases challenging DOMA.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner, could not be reached for immediate comment.
The news was first reported Monday morning by the Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel.
Update: Clement has resigned from King & Spalding, effective immediately. It’s unclear whether Clement will remain legal counsel for the DOMA defense; in his resignation letter, first obtained by Politico, Clement wrote he intends to do so at his new firm, Washington, D.C.-based Bancroft PLLC.
In a Monday letter to Hays, Clement wrote, "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 would have never undertaken this matter unless I believed I had the full backing of the firm,” Clement continued. “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."
HRC's Solmonese released the following statement on the K&S news:
"King & Spalding has rightly chosen to put principle above politics in dropping its involvement in the defense of this discriminatory and patently unconstitutional law. We are pleased to see the firm has decided to stand on the right side of history and remain true to its core values," Solmonese said.
"Speaker Boehner is likely to pursue continued defense of this odious law. However, law firms that value LGBT equality should remain committed to those values,” he said.
Speaking Monday with The Advocate, National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown, who last week praised Clement as a "legal eagle in this case who actually wants to win in court," criticized the firm's decision and said it was the result, he claims, of "harassing and punishing and intimidating to stop a debate."
"HRC did what it enjoys doing, which is to launch a campaign of cultural intimidation. We see this time and time again," Brown said.
Update: Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner released a statement regarding the staffing change Monday afternoon.
“The speaker is disappointed in the firm’s decision and its careless disregard for its responsibilities to the House in this constitutional matter," Buck said, according to the New York Times. "At the same time, Mr. Clement has demonstrated legal integrity, and we are grateful for his decision to continue representing the House. This move will ensure the constitutionality of this law is appropriately determined by the courts, rather than by the president unilaterally.”