Former solicitor general Paul Clement has resigned from his law firm, Kind & Spalding, over the firm's decision to back out of a commitment to defend the Defense of Marriage Act against a constitutional challenge.
In a letter to King & Spalding chairman Robert Hays, Clement says he chose to resign not because he has strong personal views about DOMA. Rather, he writes, “I resign 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.”
King & Spalding had faced protests and threats from pro-gay marriage groups in light of its decision to defend DOMA.
“Efforts to delegitimize any representation for one side of a legal controversy are a profound threat to the rule of law,” Clement continues. “Much has been said about being on the wrong side of history. But being on the right or wrong side on the merits is a question for clients. When it comes to the lawyers, the surest way to be on the wrong side of history is to abandon a client in the face of hostile criticism.”
In his resignation letter, Clement also takes a direct shot at Hays, the firm's chairman, who earlier today said through a spokesman that “the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate” — that is, that King & Spalding had not sufficiently looked into the issue before taking the case. “I would never have undertaken this matter unless I believed I had the full backing of the firm,” Clement writes. “I recognized from the outset that this statute [DOMA] implicates very sensitive issues that prompt strong views on both sides.”
“If there were problems with the firms' vetting process,” Clement says, “we should fix the vetting process, not drop the representation.”
Clement's resignation is effective immediately.