Law Firm Defending DOMA For Congress Drops Case

Illustration for article titled Law Firm Defending DOMA For Congress Drops Case

Funny how these things work. You may recall that the Republican-controlled House conveniently found $500,000 marked "uphold a law that discriminates against gay people" despite President Obama's declining to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. That money went to a contact for a law firm, much to Democrats' derision.

Now, under pressure from gay rights activists, that firm has dropped the case. And the lead lawyer on the case, former Solicitor General (under George W. Bush) Paul Clement, promptly resigned.

Illustration for article titled Law Firm Defending DOMA For Congress Drops Case

In his letter of protest, he insisted that this was not about his support for DOMA, but rather the principle of defending even unpopular causes. He will continue defending the case from another firm.

Not everyone agreed with that reasoning; said Maya Rupert of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, "A private lawyer is under no obligation - from a state bar, pursuant to ethical rules, or out of respect for the adversarial process - to defend an indefensible law. Those who choose to defend such a law do so at the peril of their reputations as fair-minded and just advocates." What was that about being on the wrong side of history?

DOMA Defense In Turmoil [Politico]

Share This Story

Get our `newsletter`



Why is it that we wouldn't criticize the individual lawyer at the justice department who defends a case like DOMA, but we do criticize the private lawyer who does the same?

It's true that there is no ethical obligation imposed by the state bar. That doesn't mean a lawyer has no ethical obligation to take the side in a case that no one else is willing to.

Whatever his reasons, Paul Clement is doing this country a solid. If we start down the path where unpopular laws are declared unconstitutional merely because no lawyer is willing to defend the case, we're in trouble. Even a clearly unconstitutional law needs someone to argue that it isn't. This is how the adversarial system works.