Attorney Paul Clement
The law firm hired to defend the Defense of Marriage Act has dropped it, but Paul Clement will keep defending the law on his own. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The private law firm hired by Congress to pursue Defense of Marriage Act cases has quit representing the government for that purpose. Law firm King and Spalding has withdrawn from any DOMA cases, but the lead counsel quit the firm to keep pursuing the cases. Paul Clement, a former solicitor general, will continue to defend DOMA.

Prominent attorney leaves firm to defend DOMA

When the Obama administration and the Justice Department announced that the government would no longer defend any court cases regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, Congressional Republicans responded by hiring a private law firm to do the job. The law mandates that a legal marriage is only between a man and woman as far as the federal government is concerned. The law firm, King and Spalding of Atlanta, Ga., has announced that it dropped the account with the government to defend DOMA cases according to CNN. But the lead attorney for those cases has resigned from the firm to continue pursuing DOMA suits. The lead attorney was Paul Clement, formerly Solicitor General under George W. Bush. Clement felt that his client still deserved representation regardless of any controversy.

Firm drops controversial defense

Paul Clement has joined Bancroft, a law firm based in Washington, D.C., and he will represent the government in any pending DOMA cases. King and Spalding released a statement that the case had been accepted without proper review by senior partners to determine whether the case was worth pursuing, which is contrary to normal procedure. Law firms often perform a cost-versus-benefit analysis to decide which cases to take. The legal system is designed so that nearly any case can secure representation, regardless of how odious it might seem. King and Spalding had been criticized by a growing number of gay and lesbian rights groups for handling cases construed to make gays and lesbians second class citizens under the law, according to the Washington Post. The firm has not commented on why it decided to drop the account besides that it had taken the case with little review.

First case pending

Clement has begun his first case as the sole defender of the Defense of Marriage Act. He filed a brief in federal court in New York state in a DOMA case involving the estate tax. The case in question involves Edith Windsor of New York state, who married her partner in an out-of-state ceremony in 2007, after they had been together for more than 40 years. Windsor’s wife died, leaving Windsor her assets. Windsor was struck with a $360,000 estate tax bill, which is being challenged in court. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers New York, has never tried a DOMA case before.



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