Constitutional Law

Paul Clement and John Boehner: now out of King & Spalding's hair.

Some people, including crisis communications experts, think that King & Spalding should just shut up already about the DOMA debacle. The firm agreed to represent the House of Representatives in defending the controversial Defense of Marriage Act, and then almost immediately turned around and withdrew from the representation. This prompted the departure from the firm of star appellate litigator Paul Clement, former Solicitor General of the United States, who took the DOMA matter over to his new firm, Bancroft PLLC.

The decision to drop DOMA defense also led to the defections of King & Spalding clients, like the NRA and the state of Virginia. It generated criticism of the firm from diverse quarters — everyone from Ken Cuccinelli to the New York Times editorial board. [FN1]

Despite the advice of the communications experts (with which I personally agree), King & Spalding continues to discuss the DOMA debacle. The firm is starting to sound like a therapy patient that won’t relinquish the couch, and just wants to yap and yap and yap. Are you listening?

Let’s look at the latest revelations — and also some compensation news out of K&S….

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I like crusading AGs with names like "Spitzer" more than "Cuccinelli," but that's just me.

Obamacare scored a huge victory today. Not because of an election or an impassioned debate. Not because of a fresh argument or a political compromise. Not even because of a considered legal opinion. No, Obamacare scored a major victory just because the Fourth Circuit panel randomly chosen to hear the challenge to Obamacare, an appeal spearheaded by crusading Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, will be made up of three judges appointed by Democratic presidents.

And because we live in a country where our judiciary is about as apolitical as a parliamentary house, it’s reasonable to think that at least two of the three judges (two of whom were appointed by Obama himself) will deliver an Obamacare victory.

Does anybody have a problem with that?

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I think it’s important for lawyers on the other side of the political divide from Paul, who’s a very fine lawyer, to reaffirm what Paul wrote [in his resignation letter from King & Spalding]. Paul is entirely correct that our adversary system depends on vigorous advocates being willing to take on even very unpopular positions. Having undertaken to defend DOMA, he’s acting in the highest professional and ethical traditions in continuing to represent a client to whom he had committed in this very charged matter.

Seth Waxman, former U.S. Solicitor General (under President Clinton) and current WilmerHale partner, commenting to Washingtonian magazine on the decision of fellow former S.G. Paul Clement to resign from King & Spalding and join Bancroft PLLC. At Bancroft, the D.C. boutique law firm founded by former Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh, Clement will continue to represent the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives in its defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Paul Clement (left) and John Boehner (right)

The leading law firm of King & Spalding, which came under fire from LGBT rights groups after its defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) became public last week, has moved to withdraw from the litigation. The firm cited problems with the vetting process applied to the engagement.

And Paul Clement, the former U.S. Solicitor General and King & Spalding partner who was going to spearhead the DOMA defense, is now a former K&S partner. He resigned from K&S this morning, in response to the firm’s withdrawal decision. Clement will continue his representation of the House of Representatives in DOMA litigation from his new home, Bancroft PLLC, the high-powered D.C. boutique founded by a fellow alum of the Bush Department of Justice, Georgetown law professor Viet Dinh.

UPDATE (12:20 PM): We reached out for comment to Professor Dinh, who said: “Paul wins the biggest cases and Bancroft solves the most complex problems. This is a no brainer. We will continue to do what Paul and I love doing most, which is to serve the best interests of our clients.”

Let’s take a look at King & Spalding’s stated justification for dropping the DOMA representation, and at Paul Clement’s resignation letter….

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[A] lawyer who defends an individual or a law, no matter how unpopular or distasteful, helps ensure that the outcome is viewed as fair. If DOMA is struck down, the fact that it was defended effectively will make the victory for its opponents more credible…. We hope [Paul] Clement loses, but we don’t begrudge him the assignment. Even a lawyer of his skills will find it hard to defend a discriminatory law like DOMA.

– a Los Angeles Times staff editorial, defending former Solicitor General Paul Clement and his law firm, King & Spalding, against criticism of their defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Paul Clement (left) and John Boehner (right)

They say that everyone is entitled to a lawyer. [FN1] But is everyone entitled to the services of former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, one of our nation’s finest appellate advocates? At a discounted rate, no less?

As we mentioned in yesterday’s Non-Sequiturs, the U.S. House of Representatives has hired Paul Clement and Clement’s law firm, the venerable King & Spalding, to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA, which essentially bars recognition of same-sex marriages for purposes of federal law, has been struck down in part by various federal courts, and the Obama Administration has decided to stop defending the 1996 law in constitutional challenges.

So the House Republicans have stepped up to the plate to defend DOMA. And they’ve hired some high-powered counsel for the task, namely, Clement and King & Spalding.

The contract between the House and King & Spalding was made public today by the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (after Speaker John Boehner declined to release it). The agreement contains some interesting tidbits, including the hourly rate the House will be paying, as well as a cap (although an adjustable one) on the fees to be paid to K&S.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has finally decided to step down. We should all be thankful that this has been a relatively “bloodless” coup. We should all take notice of a middle eastern regime change that didn’t require the use of American armed forces. We should all wish the people of Egypt the best of luck as they forge ahead into their uncertain future. And we should all pray that in the end Egypt continues on its moderate path of relating to Israel and the west.

That last part is key. Sure, by the end Mubarak was like the guy who won’t leave your house after the Super Bowl party. We’ve all been there. The people of Egypt tried everything you or I have tried in that situation: “Dude, it’s getting late, I have to work in the morning,” “No, really, I can handle the dishes by myself,” “Seriously brah, if you’re here when my wife wakes up she’s going to be pissed.”

But despite his inability to take a hint, Mubarak was still our friend. There’s no guarantee that the next guy will be.

In fact, who is the next guy? We know that Vice President Omar Suleiman is technically in charge now. And many suspect that actually there is a general with a gun who is really in charge. But who is supposed to be in charge? (This is starting to sound like Howrey.)

Seems to me, once God stopped “anointing” people, He created lawyers to answer just this kind of a question…

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Well this should be fun. Florida federal judge Roger Vinson has struck down the heart of Obama’s health care reform plan, finding that the individual mandate part of the bill is unconstitutional and therefore the whole thing is unconstitutional.

As Ashby Jones points out on the WSJ Law Blog, that makes the score 2 – 2. Two federal judges have upheld the law; two others have struck it down.

You know what that means? It means that very soon America will be operating under the Anthony M. Kennedy health care system. Does Justice Kennedy think that I have a right to health care? Does he think that pre-existing conditions should be covered? Is he comfortable having an entire nation’s health care system held hostage by a few insurance giants?

Exciting questions! I can’t wait to see how a man who nobody elected will decide our medical futures….

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Do we really need to make it easier for people to have weapons on school campuses? Really? We’re not worried about school shootings anymore? Is the Second Amendment really so broad that it requires us to allow students to weaponize their law school dorm rooms? Is there no “safe zone” in America where I can go and be reasonably assured of not being hit with an unintended, stray, accidental bullet fired from a hand cannon a man was legally allowed to possess just because George Washington needed some well-armed farmers to defeat the British?

According Idaho Law 2L Aaron Tribble, his right to have a firearm in his dorm room trumps his classmates’ rights to not have to live on campus with potentially crazy gunmen in legal possession of weapons. Tribble has filed suit against the University of Idaho over its policy that bans guns on campus.

He claims that the rule violates his Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights to possess a gun in his on-campus home…

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I’m not a constitutional scholar, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn last night. But I really struggle to find the ambiguity in this line from the Fourteenth Amendment: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

That statement seems very, very clear to me.

Of course, I’m not an unabashed racist. Maybe if I was I’d be able to be as intellectually dishonest and willfully ignorant as State Legislators for Legal Immigration, and have the gall to argue that this section of the 14th Amendment has been misinterpreted for 150 years.

Actually, check that. Even if I woke up in the middle of the night terrified that dirty foreigners were stealing my country, I’d grab a shovel and start digging a moat around this country before I fixed my mouth to argue utter tripe like what we’re hearing from the State Legislators for Legal Immigration.

In a world full of spurious legal arguments, theirs is truly one of the stupidest things you’re ever going to hear…

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