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Defending DOMA

I want to bring you the latest in a turn of events involving the defense of a federal statute - the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

As you may know, the federal law, which defines marriage as an institution between one man, one woman, is being challenged in the courts.  The Obama administration has said it will no longer defend the law in court.  So, the U.S. House of Representatives hired Paul Clement, a private attorney, a former U.S. Solicitor General, who heads up the national appellate practice for the firm of King & Spalding.

Paul Clement is a good friend.  We have worked with him closely over the years on a variety of issues.  He is exceptionally talented and one of the very best attorneys in the nation.

When it became public that Paul was defending DOMA on behalf of the House, DOMA opponents turned up the heat on Paul and his law firm, saying they planned to protest the Atlanta headquarters of King & Spalding.

Today, the law firm formally withdrew from the case.  King & Spalding pulled its representation - told the court it would no longer defend DOMA - with the chairman of the law firm saying:  "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."

This troubling action left Paul Clement no choice.  He resigned from the firm today.  And, in a letter to firm's chairman, Paul said he was resigning "out of the firmly-held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client's legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters. Defending unpopular positions is what lawyers do. The adversary system of justice depends on it, especially in cases where the passions run high."

Paul said he "would have never undertaken this matter unless I believed I had the full backing of the firm.  I recognized from the outset that this statute implicates very sensitive issues that 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." 

Paul Clement is an honorable advocate.  He understands that when an attorney engages a client, and agrees to defend a position in court, that is what he must do.  We applaud his efforts to move forward in defending DOMA - now with another law firm. 

We know that Paul will provide a sound and thorough defense to DOMA, which we expect to be upheld by the courts.  We will file an amicus brief defending DOMA as the case unfolds.

We applaud Paul's commitment to the legal profession, his integrity, and his desire and dedication to carry out his professional responsibilities in this case. 

Paul's continued representation and principled stand makes all of us who practice law proud.

 

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