Legal Ethics

King & Spalding Drops DOMA Defense; Clement Resigns in Protest, Takes Matter to Bancroft


Apparently bowing to political pressure, King & Spalding has dropped its representation of the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives in defense of a controversial federal law banning recognition of same-sex marriages.

In response, partner Paul Clement, a former U.S. Solicitor General, has resigned from the firm in protest, saying that a lawyer has a duty to his client to see a representation through to the end, NBC News reported on its First Read blog.

Regardless of his own personal opinion of the Defense of Marriage Act, or anyone else’s, “a representation should not be abandoned because a client’s legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters,” Clement wrote in his resignation letter (PDF posted by msnbc.com).

“I would never have undertaken this matter unless I believed I had the full backing of the firm,” he writes. “I recognized from the outset that this statute implicates very sensitive issues that prompt strong views on both sides.

“But having undertaken the representation, I believe there is no honorable course for me but to complete it. If there were problems with the firm’s vetting process, we should fix the vetting process, not drop the representation.”

Clement will continue on the DOMA matter at his new firm, Bancroft.

In a written statement, King & Spalding’s chairman, Robert Hayes Jr., described as “inadequate” the vetting process used for determining whether the firm should take on the matter. “Ultimately I am responsible for any mistakes that occurred,” he says, “and apologize for the challenges this may have created.”

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “King & Spalding to Be Paid Up to $520 an Hour to Defend Marriage Law”

Los Angeles Times: “Defense of Marriage Act defender resigns from law firm amid pressure from gay rights advocates”

Under the Radar (Politico): “Clement quits firm over Defense of Marriage Act flap”

Washington Post: “Firm defending Defense of Marriage Act withdraws from case”

Updated at 12:29 p.m. to link to additional coverage.

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