In a statement, firm chairman Robert Hays Jr. said the process for vetting its involvement in the litigation was “inadequate.” Hays took responsibility for “any mistakes” and apologized.
(Related: former U.S. solicitor general Paul Clement, who has been leading the litigation, is resigning in protest and will carry on with the lawsuits.)
Organizations that advocate for gays and lesbians, most prominently the Human Rights Campaign based in Washington, have harshly criticized the firm’s involvement with the litigation and promised to target the firm’s clients and recruits. A news conference had been scheduled for Tuesday morning in Atlanta, where the law firm is based.
King & Spalding’s involvement in the litigation became public one week ago, and Hays’ statement says the firm’s attempt to withdraw began soon after. “Last week we worked diligently through the process required for withdrawal,” the statement says.
“In reviewing this assignment further, I determined that the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate,” the statement continues. “Ultimately I am responsible for any mistakes that occurred and apologize for the challenges this may have created.”
The office of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who hired King & Spalding, condemned the announcement. “The speaker is disappointed in the firm’s decision and its careless disregard for its responsibilities to the House in this constitutional matter,” spokesman Brendan Buck said in an e-mailed statement.
But in filings in federal court in Manhattan, King & Spalding asks the court to give the House additional time to make arrangements. Withdrawal requires the approval of the court, according to the filings.
Rep. Nancy Pelsoi (D-Calif.), who has opposed the House’s involvement in the marriage lawsuits, took heart in Hays’ letter, said Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill. “Leader Pelosi shares Mr. Hays’ apparent concerns with the lack of transparency and accountability in the way this contract was signed,” Hammill said in an e-mailed statement. “She also vigorously opposes using half a million taxpayer dollars or any taxpayer resources to defend discrimination, at a time when Republicans in Congress are cutting critical initiatives like education and infrastructure.”
The new court filings are signed by Richard Cirillo, a partner in King & Spalding’s New York office and, according to his firm profile, the chairman of the firm’s ethics committee. A hearing is scheduled for May 25 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, according to the filings.
Hays did not elaborate on any vetting mistakes. A spokesman said the firm would have no comment beyond Hays’ statement.
Updated at 12:26 p.m. Photo by Zachary D. Porter/Daily Report.