The head of King & Spalding's Washington office is accepting blame for what he calls the "misunderstanding" that led the firm last month to accept, and then drop, the U.S. House of Representatives as a client in same-sex marriage litigation.
The statement by J. Sedwick "Wick" Sollers comes in a story today from The Daily Report, an Atlanta-based affiliate of The National Law Journal. The newspaper reports other new details about King & Spalding’s reversal, including that the firm’s client-vetting committee did not examine the House’s contract until after then-partner Paul Clement signed it.
Sollers’ statement reads in full: “Although our chairman Robert Hays has issued a short statement saying he assumed ultimate responsibility for any mistakes that were made, I want to make sure the record is clear that I was the member of firm management in primary contact with Paul Clement regarding this matter. As I have reflected on this, despite the fact that our standard client/matter review process was not followed, it was reasonable for him to believe that the firm would accept the matter. This was an unfortunate misunderstanding with a friend whom I personally recruited to the firm and strongly supported. I am deeply disappointed by Paul’s departure and regret the breakdown in communications.”
Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general who headed King & Spalding’s appellate practice, signed a contract with the Office of the House General Counsel on April 14. He was hired to intervene in several court cases to defend the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, after President Barack Obama decided the Justice Department should not do so.
According to The Daily Report, the five-member King & Spalding committee that reviews new clients did not know about the contract until April 18, the same day the public found out. The committee began reviewing the representation on April 19 and rejected it the next day. As a result, Clement resigned from the firm and joined Washington boutique Bancroft, where he continues to represent the House.
Sollers had not previously responded to requests for comment. The firm’s only other official comment came on April 25 from Hays, who is based in the firm’s home office of Atlanta.
Citing unnamed sources, The Daily Report reports that there was adamant opposition to the DOMA litigation from within the firm. “King & Spalding is a corporate law firm — not a constitutional firm. This is not the kind of case the firm generally takes,” one source said.
The Daily Report’s full story is available here.