The contract hiring King & Spalding's Paul Clement to represent the U.S. House in same-sex marriage litigation allows for the firm to collect as much as $500,000 in fees, though the sides could raise that cap if the House hits it before the lawsuits end.
A copy of the contract was released today by the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a day after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declined to do so.
The five-page contract sets out a “blended rate” of $520 per hour for the services of King & Spalding’s legal team, led by Clement (pictured above), a former U.S. solicitor general who heads the firm’s appellate practice. Others on the case include partners Daryl Joseffer and Jeffrey Bucholtz, and associate Nicholas Nelson, according to the contract and court papers filed late on Monday.
Clement and the House’s general counsel, Kerry Kircher, signed the agreement on April 14, and it runs until the litigation is over or until January 2013, unless they agree to an extension.
Some other contracts providing outside legal help to the House have been written on a monthly basis. In 2009, when Seyfarth Shaw’s Alan Baron agreed to assist the House Judiciary Committee on judicial impeachment matters, his contract said his pay was not to exceed $28,000 per month. In 2007, when Arnold & Porter partner Irvin Nathan signed on to help Judiciary Committee Democrats investigate the U.S. attorney firings, his pay was listed at as much as $25,000 a month. (Nathan later became the House’s general counsel.)
On a monthly basis from mid-April to 2013, the $500,000 cap for King & Spalding would equal about $24,000 a month if the sides don’t agree to raise it.
The contract also includes several provisions that could affect King & Spalding’s lobbying practice. One provision prohibits all firm employees and partners from lobbying on matters before the House Committee on Administration, which approves outside legal contracts. Another provision says that King & Spalding “will take appropriate steps to prevent” its lobbyists from “influencing, or participating in any way in, the litigation.”
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill sharply criticized the size of the contract. “The hypocrisy of this legal boondoggle is mind-blowing,” Hammill said in an e-mailed statement. “Speaker Boehner is spending half a million dollars of taxpayer money to defend discrimination. If Republicans were really interested in cutting spending, this should be at the top of the list.”
In a letter on Monday, Boehner said the cost to the House would not be necessary if President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. had not decided to abandon the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. The 1996 law prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, and plaintiffs are challenging it in multiple federal courts.
A Boehner spokesman, Michael Steel, reiterated that position today in an e-mailed statement: “Obviously, this whole thing would be unnecessary if the White House and the Justice Department would do their job and defend a law that was passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by the President of the United States – a Democratic President, at that.”
Boehner wants to pay for the litigation using funds from the Justice Department, an idea Holder has called unrealistic because DOJ career attorneys would have been the ones to defend the law.
Click here (PDF) for a copy of the contract.
Updated at 1:09 p.m. National Law Journal photo by Diego M. Radzinschi.