There’s quite a debate between Jennifer Rubin and Greg Sargent over King and Spalding’s decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act for the House of Representatives. Rubin calls the pressure campaign waged by the Human Rights Campaign “unprincipled,” an assertion Sargent used an entire blog post to refute. Let me interject to say that both sides make valid points. But the bottom line is that King and Spalding should not have taken the case in the first place.
Rubin questions the law firm’s resolve, which I basically did in my post lauding Clement’s decision to stand on principle to leave King and Spalding after it dropped the case.
But even more disturbing than the left’s unprincipled campaign is what this says about the law firm’s resolve to defend unpopular clients. Maybe chemical companies involved in toxic spill cases will begin to worry about trusting the firm. I mean, couldn’t environmental advocates pull the same gambit? Who wants to take the risk? Perhaps toy companies involved in product liability cases won’t want to take their cases to King & Spalding. After all, will King & Spalding get weak in the knees when the first associate or outside advocate raises a fuss? And then there is the white-collar criminal defense practice. If you’re indicted for insider trading or ripping off shareholders, I’d bet you’d want a law firm that is impervious to public pressure.
These are all legitimate questions to ask. Although, I have to chuckle at Rubin’s righteous indignation over the left using tactics seemingly perfected by the right. That’s why I’m not bothered by HRC’s campaign to “educate” King and Spalding’s clients about the firm taking on a case that ran counter to its commitment to diversity.
What’s interesting is that Sargent and Rubin quote people who lay the blame for the controversy right at King and Spalding’s feet. Rubin quoted a conservative law professor who told her the firm’s management was “truly blameworthy.” And HRC’s Fred Sainz told Sargent, “We believe that no law firm has any responsibility to take a case. Firms pass every single day on cases they do not believe are consistent with their reputations.” King and Spalding forgot that principle and has now only compounded the problem among its peers by dumping a client.