DOMA law firm calls drop­ping out a ‘mis­un­der­stand­ing’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY CH­ERYL WETZSTEIN

A top part­ner in the law firm that abruptly dropped the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives as its client in de­fend­ing the fed­eral law defin­ing mar­riage blamed the move on “an un­for­tu­nate mis­un­der­stand­ing” that caused the firm to lose one of its top lawyers.

J. Sed­wick “Wick” Sollers, head of the Wash­ing­ton of­fice of Atlanta-based King & Spald­ing, said in a state­ment he un­der­stood how Paul D. Cle­ment, the for­mer U.S. so­lic­i­tor gen­eral, was led to be­lieve the firm would stick by its con­tract to de­fend the De­fense of Mar­riage Act (DOMA).

House Repub­li­cans had hired the firm af­ter the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion said it would no long back DOMA. Ho­mo­sex­ual groups and some of King & Spald­ing’s top clients also pres­sured the firm for agree­ing to de­fend the law. Mr. Cle­ment quit the firm and joined a sec­ond firm to con­tinue the case af­ter the de­ci­sion was an­nounced.

“This was an un­for­tu­nate mis­un­der­stand­ing with a friend whom I per­son­ally re­cruited to the firm and strongly sup­ported,” Mr. Sollers said. “I am deeply dis­ap­pointed by Paul’s de­par­ture and re­gret the break­down in com­mu­ni­ca­tions.”

Mr. Sollers’ re­marks re­ferred to a stun­ning chain of events that oc­curred April 25: King & Spald­ing an­nounced it was with­draw­ing from the DOMA con­tract and Mr. Cle­ment an­nounced he was leav­ing the firm in protest.

Mr. Cle­ment’s an­nounce­ment that he would con­tinue the case with Ban­croft PLLC, a Wash­ing­ton law firm, set off a legal firestorm.

Crit­ics said the Atlanta-based firm es­sen­tially caved un­der to pres­sure from gay ac­tivists who fiercely op­pose DOMA, and that aban­don­ing an un­pop­u­lar client be­cause of po­lit­i­cal pres­sure un­der­mines the foun­da­tion of fair and equal legal rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

In his April 25 state­ment, King & Spald­ing Chair­man Robert Hays said the firm was with­draw­ing from the House con­tract due to “in­ad­e­quate” vet­ting.

Al­though Mr. Hays “as­sumed ultimate re­spon­si­bil­ity for any mis­takes that were made, I want to make sure the record is clear,” Mr. Sollers said in his new state­ment.

“I was the mem­ber of firm man­age­ment in pri­mary con­tact with Paul Cle­ment re­gard­ing this mat­ter,” Mr. Sollers wrote. “As I have re­flected on this, de­spite the fact that our stan­dard client/mat­ter re­view process was not fol­lowed, it was rea­son­able for [Mr. Cle­ment] to be­lieve that the firm would ac­cept the mat­ter.

In an­other DOMA-re­lated de­vel­op­ment last week, the Navy backed off plans to per­mit its chap­lains to per­form same-sex mar­riages on Navy bases af­ter a me­dia storm and a letter from 63 House mem­bers.

“Of­fer­ing up fed­eral fa­cil­i­ties and fed­eral em­ploy­ees for same­sex mar­riages vi­o­lates DOMA, which is still the law of the land and binds our mil­i­tary, in­clud­ing chap­lains,” the mem­bers said in a letter to Navy Sec­re­tary Ray Mabus.

Paul D. Cle­ment

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