The National Rifle Association today is dropping King & Spalding as an outside counsel in the wake of the firm's decision last month to withdraw from representing House Republicans in support of the Defense of Marriage Act. The NRA's action follows a similar decision last week by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to end the commonwealth's relationship with the firm.
Former solicitor general Paul Clement, who resigned from the firm over its decision, represented the NRA in last year's Supreme Court case McDonald v. Chicago, which incorporated or applied the individual Second Amendment right to bear arms to state and local regulation. Following that successful representation, according to NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam, the NRA engaged Clement and the firm in reviewing briefs and evaluating other potential litigation.
In a letter dated today to King & Spalding chairman Robert Hays, NRA general counsel David Lehman said the firm's decision was "indefensible" but emphasized that the NRA's action in dropping King & Spalding is "not motivated by any position on the statute itself." The NRA is a "single issue organization" focused on the Second Amendment, Lehman wrote. But he said that in retaining outside counsel, "we expect them to zealously advocate for our interests and not abandon the representation due to pressure from those who may disagree with us."
We are seeking comment from King & Spalding, but in the past it has not commented on client representations.
Following is the text of the NRA letter to the law firm:
We are writing to notify you of our decision to terminate our legal services agreement with King & Spalding, effective immediately, due to the firm's decision to bow to political pressure and abandon a client in the midst of a legal representation. Specifically, our decision is motivated by your withdrawal as counsel for the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives in defense of Section III of the Defense of Marriage Act.
We believe King & Spalding's decision is indefensible and raises serious concerns about its ability to be a reliable and effective advocate for any client facing potentially controversial litigation.
To be clear, our decision is not motivated by any position on the statute itself. As you know, the National Rifle Association is a single-issue organization dedicated to the protection of the Second Amendment. We are, however, often involved in controversial issues on which emotions can run high. This is as true in the legal arena as it is in the legislative. It goes without saying that in situations in which we retain outside counsel, we expect them to zealously advocate for our interests and not abandon the representation due to pressure from those who may disagree with us.
The representation we have received to date from King & Spalding, specifically by former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, has been outstanding. Given your firm's recent conduct, we cannot continue to rely on King & Spalding to represent the NRA. Indeed, your decision only serves to embolden ideological organizations to protest the legal representation of other organizations with which they disagree, with the goal of freezing their opponents out of legal representation entirely. That, in turn, threatens the very principles on which our legal system is based.
Therefore, we hereby terminate our legal services agreement with King & Spalding.