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May 02, 2011



A ton of ink has been expended on this subject but I think it is fair to say that any client would be leery of a law firm that could possibly abandon them due to outside pressure. In short, King & Spalding has 'lost face', and it would not surprise me in the least if even a few professed liberal businesses quietly sought representation elsewhere with a firm that is less ideological. Few large businesses could pass a purity test and the Human Rights Campaign has clearly stated that they will be carfully reviewing the law firm's client list. That in and of itelf could have a chilling effect regardless of ones ideological perspective.

Michael B

Didn't President Obama, the Attorney General and everyone else in the Executive Branch take an oath to "preserve, protect and defend" the laws of the United States when they took their jobs? Where is the law that says any of them can "opt out" of defending those laws when they develop personal or political opinions that conflict? How convenient.


Let's get real folks. The NRA may formally be a one-issue organizarion, but it is a cornerstone member of movement conservatism. Until I am shown an example where the NRA stood on this precise principle in solidarity with a standard-bearer of movement liberalism, I'll rest easy in my belief that Wayne Lapierre was standing up for the conservative team, not for the abstract principle that once a lawyer accepts an engagement, his firm must see it through to the bitter end, regardless of whether the lawyer vetted the engagement with firm management (apparently Celement did not), and regardless of whether the firm had undertaken any substantive effort on behalf of the engagement (apparently it did not -- indeed, K&S withdrew from the engagement within a few days of Clement accepting it).


The President deemed the law unconstitutional as have several judges. Therefore, if the President believes the law is discriminatory towards ANY segment of American citizens, he is free to direct the Dept. of Justice not to defend that law. Neither he, nor the DOJ, are obligated to defend laws they deem discriminatory to pacify a bunch of political opportunists (Hello Weeper of the House, Boehner, Cuncinelli, Clement, et al) trying to score political points with their base at the expense of nearly 10 million gay and lesbian, tax paying American citizens!


The Human Rights Campaign has openly boasted that they were directly responsible for causing King & Spalding to abandon defending DOMA. Had King & Spalding dropped DOMA prior to these threats the explanaton regarding improper vetting would have more credence.

As it stands, it appears that the law firm did in fact buckle under pressure and a controversial organization like the NRA might very well fear that other activist might cause them to abandon them as well. If they'll cut and run due to pressure from one group, why not another?

Jack Reynolds

The NRA should have applied its own logic to its own actions in abandoning the fight against government restrictions on freedom of speech. How can we trust them when they abandon us?

E. Zach Lee-Wright

The NRA has committed many sins, some of omission, but in this action they are correct. All clients of K&S must take pause that K&S would abandon a client at the behest of another. And I am..... E. Zach Lee-Wright


"Jeffrey: What evidence do you have that Mr. Clement jumped the vetting process?"

Well, his former law firm delicately explained that their vetting process was "inadequate." It's my opinion, but it's more informed than, say, believing K & S caved into pressure from the HRC.

"DOMA is a law passed by the majority of the Congress and if Congress wants to defend it, then it deserves a properly skilled lawyer to defend it."

No, a law doesn't "deserve" anything. Boehner is free to hire an attorney, but he's doing so for his hide, not DOMA's. His evangelical base will insist he appear to be defending DOMA and Mr. Clement was willing to help him with his dilemma.

If K & S dropped its defense of an unpopular person or group, I believe I would be angry. But they didn't do that, they withdrew advocating for (aka "defending") a law.


"Second, what kind of idiot would call defending DOMA a matter of political advocacy rather than legal defense?"

Well, Karen, I guess I'm that kind of idiot! See, laws don't have a "right" to a defense, the way a person charged with a crime does. Laws are made by a political entity, in this case, the US Congress. If you want to defend it, feel free to do so, but doing so is based on how you feel about the law, not some legal principle that says laws "deserve" to be defended. What bunk. Defending a rotten law is even worse than trying to disguise your political advocacy as legal representation.


@ Charles: the NRA isn't putting pressure on the firm. They're leaving them because they don't represent their clients properly. That's not hypocritical, it's rational.

Karen Grube

How can the folks commenting here get this entire situation so wrong? First of all, it's not "pressure" for the NRA to drop representation. "Pressure" is when you tell a firm that, if they don't drop a particular client or case, they will lose your business. That isn't what happened here. The NRA's move was after the fact. They simply chose to drop them after K&S dropped an unpopular case, out of fear that K&S would cave to pressure from companies or organizations that don't like the NRA or the Second Amendment, and drop them as a client one day.

Second, what kind of idiot would call defending DOMA a matter of political advocacy rather than legal defense? Give me a break! The DOJ DROPPING the defense of DOMA was a totally political act, not the House calling for its continued defense. DOMA was and still is federal law, and as such deserves the absolute best defense, not for political reasons, but because IT IS THE LAW!

Who are you people?


The logic of some of the commentators is interesting. Johnny Justice: What evidence do you have of any strongarming? Badkins: NRA is not putting pressure on K&S. NRA dropped them and I did not see any indication of an intention to return to K&S. Pressure is what the gay rights group applied to K&S by threatening to make public waves against K&S. Jeffrey: What evidence do you have that Mr. Clement jumped the vetting process? K&S claimed the vetting process was inadequate, not that it was not used. You each obviously have political viewpoints that color your comments. I support gay civil unions but I believe I may be in the minority. DOMA is a law passed by the majority of the Congress and if Congress wants to defend it, then it deserves a properly skilled lawyer to defend it. I hope Mr. Clement does a great job and loses. Given the obvious political leanings in your comments, if K&S had dropped representation of a gay rights group due to pressure from Jerry Falwell and that crowd, you would likely be calling K&S gutless. I hope that you gain some objectivity. K&S should not have abandoned a client after another client threatened them. If anything, they should have told the threatening client to take a hike. I do not care which side of the political spectrum K&S abandoned, its management showed an utter lack of courage. (And this comes from someone who thinks K&S is otherwise a great law firm.)


K&S agreed too fast to a contract that violated free speech rights (with actual legal repercussions easily possible in numerous states I mind you) for their employees. To pretend they are any more or less pro-gay because if this doesn't hold much water.

Jonathan Justice

It looks to me like the NRA went with the attorney who had represented them. The huffing and puffing about pressure would thus appear to be a diversion from the attention both the organization and Mr. Clement deserve for their problematical behavior. It would indeed appear that the guy tried to strongarm his own firm. That sort of thing, especially when one considers the element of public exposure, has considerable potential to offend the rest of the firm.

Charles Badkins

Ironic, isn't it. The NRA is putting pressure on K&S because K&S apparently bowed to pressure.

I wonder if the NRA would have had problems if instead of the Republican-controlled House of Reps, K&S had dropped Planned Parenthood, or the NAACP. Of course, we know they wouldn't have.


Conservatives sure are a vengeful bunch! Since laws don't have Bill of Rights protections, no law firm is obligated to defend them, or keep defending them if circumstances change. In fact, because defending DOMA is an act of political advocacy, not legal representation, a law firm (or accounting firm, or public relations firm, or catering firm) is certainly free to stop advocating at any time. A contract is a contract and if John Boehner wants to sue K & S for breech of contract, that's one thing. But it kinda sounds like Mr. Clement and Mr. Boehner jumped the gun a bit by announcing their advocacy partnership in advance of the law firm vetting porcess!

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