The Atlanta law firm of King & Spalding recently came under fire from gay rights advocates for agreeing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. Republicans in the House of Representatives hired the law firm at a rate of $520 per hour to defend the law after the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in court. In a surprise move, firm chairman Robert D. Hayes announced that the law firm was withdrawing from the DOMA cases, stating that "the process for vetting this engagement was inadequate."
The firm's announcement that it was withdrawing from defending the DOMA cases was swiftly followed by a letter of resignation by firm partner Paul Clement, who had been head of their appellate advocacy department and who was heading up the DOMA defense in court. Clement stated that the firm should not abandon its defense of a client merely because the position is unpopular. A copy of the letter of resignation can be viewed here Bancroft stated that he will join the firm of Bancroft PLLC and will continue to defend DOMA as part of that law firm.
What is your opinion of this move by King & Spalding? Are they giving in to political pressure, or are they making a smart move to reject a case they are likely to lose? Were the long-term costs of being unfairly branded as being an anti-gay law firm too high to make this case one worth taking? Once a law firm accepts a case, should they withdraw on the mere basis of changing their minds about taking the case, or should they have a stronger reason arise for getting out of a case? Is Paul Clement taking a principled stand or just hanging on to a huge client? What kind of precedent does it establish if law firms start dropping unpopular clients or causes out of political pressure? Share your thoughts about this interesting situation in the Comments section below.