When news broke that King & Spalding was withdrawing from representing the House of Representatives in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) lawsuits, and that former solicitor general Paul Clement was leaving the firm to continue that representation, I didn’t think much of it. Lawyers leave law firms all the time, typically for a constellation of reasons, constellations that usually include the North star of money and which sometimes include a star or two related to ethics or professional satisfaction. I’d imagine that money played some role in Clement’s decision to leave King and Spalding, too. It usually does when a star partner leaves a large law firm.
King & Spalding had no ethical or moral obligation to take the case, but in having done so, it was obliged to stay with its clients, to resist political pressure from the left that it feared would hurt its business. Paul Clement, a former solicitor general who quit as partner in King & Spalding over the decision, said, “a representation should not be abandoned because the client’s legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters.”
Justice is best served when everyone whose case is being decided by a court is represented by able counsel.
An advocate, in the discharge of his duty, knows but one person in all the world, and that person is his client.
[P]artners and employees who do not perform services pursuant to this Agreement will not engage in lobbying or advocacy for or against any legislation … that would alter or amend in any way the Defense of Marriage Act and is pending before either the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate or any committee of either body during the term of the Agreement.