King & Spalding, the law firm that agreed to defend the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of House Republican leaders, has withdrawn from the case. And the Washington-based partner who had signed on as lead counsel in the DOMA defense, Paul Clement, resigned from King & Spalding today.
The Atlanta-based law firm agreed to take the case for a fee of more than $500,000 to be paid by taxpayers. House Republican leaders took on the job of defending DOMA after President Barack Obama announced that the Justice Department would no longer do so.
In his resignation letter, Clement said he plans to continue as counsel in the case with another law firm, Bancroft PLLC. Clement is a former solicitor general and served in the George W. Bush administration. Bancroft was founded by a former Bush assistant attorney general.
Clement said in his resignation letter that he did not have strongly held views about DOMA but that “representation should not be abandoned because the client’s legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters.”
Jon Davidson, legal director for the LGBT civil rights group Lambda Legal, questioned the legality of one provision of the contract between the House and King & Spalding.
The contract would prohibit the law firm’s employees from advocating for the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill introduced recently that would repeal DOMA. Labor laws in a number of states including California, where King & Spalding have two offices, forbid an employer from preventing an employee from participating in the political process.
Robert D. Hays, Jr., the chairman of King & Spaulding, made the following statement today:
Today the firm filed a motion to withdraw from its engagement to represent the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives on the constitutional issues regarding Section III of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Last week we worked diligently through the process required for withdrawal.
In reviewing this assignment further, I determined that the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate. Ultimately I am responsible for any mistakes that occurred and apologize for the challenges this may have created.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, issued the following statement:
King & Spalding has rightly chosen to put principle above politics in dropping its involvement in the defense of this discriminatory and patently unconstitutional law. We are pleased to see the firm has decided to stand on the right side of history and remain true to its core values.
Speaker Boehner is likely to pursue continued defense of this odious law. However, law firms that value LGBT equality should remain committed to those values.