Last week, we tangentially touched on the issue of California’s Proposition 8, which is titled: “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry.” The issue touched off a firestorm of comments, with many strong opinions for and against the measure.
Apparently, senior attorneys at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe also hold strong opinions about Prop. 8. Political divisions at the firm came to a head when Dean Criddle, a tax partner in the San Francisco office, made a $5,000 contribution to the Yes On 8 campaign. Upon learning of Criddle’s contribution, his colleague in the tax department and San Francisco office, of counsel Cameron Wolfe, sent out this email:
Sent: Sunday, September 28, 2008 9:57 PM
To: SF ALL ATTORNEYS; SV ALL ATTORNEYS; SC ALL ATTORNEYS
Subject: Orrick and the Proposition 8 Campaign
The publicity attendant to the $5,000 contribution to the Yes on 8 Campaign by an Orrick partner damages the reputation of Orrick as a progressive law firm supportive of equal rights for gay and lesbian people. This can adversely impact the firm in many ways, including hurting our ability to attract gay and lesbian recruits; turning off clients, existing and potential, that support equal rights for homosexuals; and making our current gay and lesbian work force feel like second class citizens.
Chief justice George’s eloquent exposition of the reasons why same sex marriage is a right that should be guaranteed to all gay and lesbian people need not be elaborated upon here. Obviously, the partner who made the $5,000 contribution had a right to believe the Chief Justice to be wrong and to make the contribution he did. It can be debated whether he should have foreseen that this action could damage Orrick. What can’t be debated is that we should try to counteract the damage that has occurred.
One thing that we as individuals working at the Orrick firm can do is to make personal contributions to the No on 8 Campaign. If enough of us do so, that may be newsworthy enough to generate positive publicity offsetting the present negative impression in the community on this important issue.
I urge each of you to make a contribution to No on 8, which can be sent as follows:
No on 8
2370 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94114
And be sure to indicate your affiliation with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP.
Thanks for your help.
Cameron Wolfe, Jr.
We can argue about whether gay marriage should be protected by the Constitution, but isn’t it a little bit odd to be advocating one right while trying to step on a separate Constitutional protection?
Another Orrick lawyer weighs in, after the jump.
If you are going to send out a firm-wide email of this nature, you’d better expect a response. A partner in Orrick’s San Francisco office took the bait:
From: William Doyle
Sent: Monday, September 29, 2008 12:08 AM
To: SF ALL ATTORNEYS; SV ALL ATTORNEYS; SC ALL ATTORNEYS
Subject: RE: Orrick and the Proposition 8 Campaign
As a member of the SF Diversity Committee and a partner in the firm, I am disappointed at the nature and tone of the message, below. I don’t doubt Cam Wolfe’s sincerity or good intentions, but do question the manner in and means by which he’s expressed them.
Please remember that one of our core values is to interact in a friendly and mutually supportive manner, and to treat each other with respect, trust and dignity.
No-one can question the firm’s commitment to diversity issues, including in particular the rights of gays and lesbians to be free from discrimination. As a tribute to those efforts, Orrick recently received a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2009 Corporate Equality Index. That index is “a report card on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality in corporate America.”
There are bright, reasonable, informed, compassionate and decent people who have strong, deeply felt and sincere views on both sides of this particular issue (including, by way of example, members of my own family). Cam Wolfe and Dean Criddle (the unnamed Orrick partner referred to in the email below) are two such people. The only way to achieve progress and understanding in these areas is through discourse that is mutually respectful.
None of us should be held up to criticism at work for making contributions as private individuals to causes that we support, whether it’s the ACLU, the Pacific Legal Foundation, PETA, the NRA, Catholic Charities or the Church of Scientology. Such personal contributions in no way reflect on Orrick as a firm. News stories that suggest the contrary, although they may frustrating and unfair, are an unfortunate and relatively minor consequence of living with a free press.
In addition, none of us should be subject to solicitations for or against any candidate or political cause from partners of the firm. It’s fine for people to do so personally with people they know, but not through mass emails using the firm’s email system. I am pretty sure we have a policy about this, and for what I believe are good reasons.
Thanks for your thoughtful consideration of the above. And please, do exercise your right to vote this Fall. There are lots of critical issues and key races for you to consider and to be heard on.
ATL is glad to be regarded as a “minor consequence” of living in a free society.
But the central question contemplated by the dueling emails remains: can one partner’s personal political contribution reflect on an entire firm?
If there were a stark difference between the Orrick partnership (yes or no) on Prop. 8 compared to other peer firms, would you care?
Should you care?
Prop 8 Title Controversy Has Been Eliminated [Legal Pad]