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Clement quits firm, stays on DOMA case

Paul D. Clement, a seasoned Supreme Court advocate who had taken on a case to defend the federal ban on benefits for same-sex married couples, resigned from his Atlanta-based law firm on Monday after the firm chose to withdraw from that legal assignment.  The former U.S. Solicitor General notified the firm of his resignation in this letter.   He indicated that he would complete the assignment representing the House of Representatives in U.S. District Court in New York City, and that he has already joined another law firm.  The law he is defending is the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996.

Earlier in the day, the firm of King & Spalding filed a motion to withdraw from the case; Clement’s name was not on the papers.  An accompanying sworn statement by another attorney in the firm, from the New York office, did not provide an explanation.  However, the firm’s chairman, Robert D. Hays of Atlanta, said in a brief statement that the firm had reconsidered last week its entry into the case, and, as a result, “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.”

Word of Clement’s letter of resignation emerged later in the morning Monday.  In the letter, he said he was leaving the firm “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 surest way to be on the wrong side of history is to abandon a client in the face of hostile criticism.”  He said he intended “to see this representation through with my new colleagues at Bancroft PLLC.”  (The Bancroft firm issued this news release on Clement’s becoming a partner there.)

Meanwhile, an organization that promotes same-sex marriage, Freedom to Marry, indicated in a news release that there had been pressure both within King & Spalding and from outside after Clement took on the defense of DOMA.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Clement quits firm, stays on DOMA case, SCOTUSblog (Apr. 25, 2011, 10:36 AM),