Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Legal Egress

King & Spalding, the law firm hired by House Speaker John Boehner to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (for the nice round fee of $500,000) has decided to withdraw from the case. That has forced the lead attorney, Paul Clement, to resign from the firm so he can continue his defense of DOMA.

Shortly after the firm announced that it would no longer take the case, former Bush solicitor general Paul Clement, the partner charged with leading the firm’s defense, submitted his letter of resignation to Hays, which was passed along to The Huffington Post.

“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. “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 position is what lawyers do.”

Things must have gotten a little interesting in the law offices of King & Spalding when they first decided to take the case since they are, according to their website, committed to diversity and offer domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples.

Be that as it may, lawyers are obligated to defend their clients to the best of their ability regardless of the politics. So Mr. Clement was sticking to that principle when he resigned from the firm. Good for him. But I do think his choice of words in his resignation is telling: “Defending unpopular position is what lawyers do.”

DOMA is not just unpopular “in certain quarters.” It is blatant discrimination against an entire class of people, and a lot of people — including a high-powered D.C. law firm — realize that and want to see the law overturned, or, at the least, not defended in court. It’s not a question of popularity; it’s a question of fundamental rights for citizens of this country.

So while Mr. Clement may think he’s doing the right or even noble thing by defending the indefensible, he’s not exactly coming across as Clarence Darrow.

HT to rubber hose.