This afternoon, in what must be a blow to the hard left and the Human Rights Campaign, Attorney General Eric Holder took sides in the King and Spalding controversy. As Politico reported:
Paul Clement is a great lawyer and has done a lot of really great things for this nation. In taking on the representation — representing Congress in connection with DOMA, I think he is doing that which lawyers do when we’re at our best,” Holder said during a roundtable with reporters at the Justice Department. “That criticism, I think, was very misplaced.”
Holder also compared the criticism of Clement to the attacks on Justice Department lawyers for their past work for [detainees] at Guantanamo. “It was something we dealt with here in the Department of Justice. . . . The people who criticized our people here at the Justice Department were wrong then as are people who criticized Paul Clement for the representation that he’s going to continue,” Holder added.
I also talked with former attorney general Michael Mukasey. He told me, “I suppose my thoughts resemble those of others. When DOJ lawyers who had represented Gitmo detainees, and when lawyers representing Gitmo detainees generally, were being pilloried, I wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal to the effect that the attacks on the DOJ lawyers were of a piece with the attacks on Bernard Madoff’s lawyer and on John Yoo and Jay Bybee, and should stop because, among other reasons, the department should continue to attract lawyers who were not afraid of controversy rather than those who sought above all to avoid it.”
Mukasey also observed that the same liberal groups that decried the attacks on the Gitmo lawyers were mum now. He said, “Lots of huzzahs from the left side of the audience after that one, but the left is notably silent now.” What about the explanation from the firm’s chairman that there had been some glitch in “vetting” the case? He told me, “The statement about defective vetting is close to meaningless. Did they fail to anticipate that this would be a matter of controversy? Although lawyers are not obligated in the first instance to take all comers, they are very much obligated not to quit in the face of criticism once they do take on a client. This is a bad message to send to lawyers and to clients.”
The good news is that lawyers on both sides of the ideological divide agree on this principle. Now, someone needs to explain it to the Human Rights Campaign and King and Spalding.