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The Shirley Sherrod and DOMA cases — a contrast in how law firms are treated

The Shirley Sherrod and DOMA cases — a contrast in how law firms are treated

I followed Shirley Sherrod’s lawsuit against Andrew Breitbart and Larry O’Connor over an edited video of Sherrod’s speech to an NAACP chapter very carefully early on, demonstrating beyond doubt that the core of Sherrod’s claim, that she was falsely portrayed in a short video Breitbart released, was not supported by the actual edited video.

I detailed, frame by frame, how each of the elements of Sherrod’s story that she alleged was not in the video was in fact in the video.  The video was not misleading.  The myth that Breitbart deceptively edited the video lives on, nonetheless, as the gospel truth in the liberal blogosphere and media.

Not entirely surprisingly, the claim has survived an early attempt to have it thrown out as a SLAPP suit.  Sherrod is represented by a powerhouse law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, primarily by big name litigator, Thomas Yanucci.   Reportedly, the representation is for free.

I had not paid much attention to the case recently until news broke that in September Sherrod, through Kirkland & Ellis, had sought to add Breitbart’s widow Susie as as defendant in the case in light of Andrew’s death and failure to create an Estate against which Sherrod could proceed.  Holding Susie responsible for Andrew’s alleged misconduct obviously also would affect the future of their children. 

Susie has objected to this attempt, arguing among other things, that the claim does not comply with California law.  In response, Kirkland & Ellis clarified its position a bit, arguing that Susie would not be added “in her individual capacity” (what that would mean is unclear) and offering to consult with her counsel as to whether there was some other person or corporate entity that could be substituted.  It’s hard to see how that would happen, so what appears to be a softened position may not be much of anything.  As of this writing, there has been no judicial decision.

Considering that Sherrod already has cashed in on a huge settlement with the federal government, the complete lack of involvement of Andrew’s widow, and the lack of substance to the claim, this seems to be particularly vindictive. 

It may be Sherrod’s right, and Kirkland & Ellis appears simply to be zealously representing their client, but it brought back memories of how another large law firm was treated and forced to drop represenation under boycott and secondary boycott threats in a politically charged case.

That law firm was King & Spalding, which agreed to represent the House of Representatives in DOMA litigation after the Obama administration, having defended DOMA for years in court, abruptly changed its mind and instructed the DOJ not to represent the House.  The House then hired King & Spalding, specifically litigator Paul Clement.

At that point, an aggressive boycott campaign was organized by well-funded entities like Human Rights Campaign to force King & Spalding to drop the represenation of the House.  The boycott threats were to include not only picketing and boycotting King & Spalding, but also dragging clients of the law firm into the dispute.  Companies such as Coca Cola, King & Spalding’s largest client, were threatened with boycotts and protests even though those clients had absolutely nothing to do with the DOMA case.

King & Spalding gave in to the pressure quickly, and dropped the representation.  In protest, Clement resigned from the firm.

It was a tactic we have seen the left execute repeatedly and with some limited success, against conservative radio and television personalities.  The Stop Rush movement, even though it has not forced Limbaugh off the air and in fact his contract was reupped by Cumulus Broadcasting, continues to toil away harrassing Limbaugh advertisers.

In the King & Spalding case, the firm had no problem representing Gitmo detainess, but the House was off limits as a client because the legal position on DOMA, while a good faith legal position until recently adopted by the Obama administration, was politically unpopular with those skilled in boycotts and threats.

I was and am critical of this tactic of politicizing all aspects of life and trying to deprive litigants of counsel by pressuring law firms to drop representation of politically unpopular causes.  I would no more have threatened King & Spalding over its Gitmo representation than threatened it over other cases in which it was acting as legal counsel.

So getting back to Kirkland & Ellis, there are rumblings in the conservative blogosphere over the seemingly vindictive attack on Andrew’s widow and children. 

Protecting Andrews’s family from the viciousness routinely visited on Andrew while alive is important to many in the conservative blogosphere.

And that presents a conundrum routinely facing conservatives.  Use the baseless and vicious tactics of the left, or unilaterally do the right thing?

Update:  I should note that was formed recently to push back with some of the tactics used by the left against conservatives.  Its first action was a boycott of advertisers on Al Sharpton’s show.  It’s a shame it has come to this, but after a decade of being the punching bag for left-wing boycotts, it’s understandable that some people feel the need to adopt their tactics.


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ShakesheadOften | October 11, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Do the right thing and continuously expose them when they do the wrong thing.

    I agree. The alternative cannot be sustained by people with a conscience. We should be wary of sacrificing what good exists in this world.

    JimMtnViewCaUSA in reply to ShakesheadOften. | October 11, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Sorry, but if Gandhi had lived in Russia he would be, at most, a small blood stain on a piece of concrete somewhere. No one would know that he had ever lived.
    Is the Obama team more like the Brit Empire in its ethics or more like the Russian Communist dictatorship? Sure, we don’t know yet, but I feel confident which way to bet.

    If you are not willing to fight, then get ready to lose.
    Republican Brand ™ 🙂

theduchessofkitty | October 11, 2013 at 1:52 pm

I’ve seen this before.

I know of a widow who was sued by someone with a grudge against her late husband, who attempted to throw the widow and her child into penury – and even had U.S. Marshall officers sent to her workplace to humiliate her. Worst part about it: the final settlement happened twenty-one years after the man’s passing.

That widow was my mother.

A lawsuit of this magnitude has a very adverse impact on the widow and her children. It doesn’t allow the widow to properly “bury” her husband and move on with her life. It has a serious effect on the widow’s health and sanity. It also attempts to poison the memory of the late father before her children, in the worst ways possible. I know it did that to me. For the longest time, I thought my father was a creep. In addition to the grief of losing him, which didn’t go away for over a decade, I had to confront horrible rumors and allegations against him.

Mind you, this was happening at a small town, from which I left for college and never returned to live. But L.A. presents an even worse situation.

Susie Breitbart should fight this ferociously. She has a right to live a normal life, along with her children. She wasn’t involved in any of these disputes: she was too busy doing her own thing and raising her children. The fact that someone with a grudge against her husband wants to leave her and his descendants in penury should be pointed out and screamed in outrage all across the land.

They couldn’t get to Andrew, so they will destroy his family instead. Evil. Pure. Evil.

In our culture the good guys lose in every confrontation. This has been going on for decades, and we are now reaping the resulting horrors, in multiple areas of society. But we are told we should feel good about ourselves. This is not sustainable.

Perhaps the clarification means that Andrew’s widow will be representing his estate, rather then being sued herself. In that case Sherrod is suing a dead man for defamation, which didn’t happen. In the video, Sherrod said she had racist thoughts; she did have racist thoughts. This lawsuit has no merit but will punish Andrew’s widow with legal costs.

God damn Shirley Sherrod.

Does anyone know if there’s a fund that I can contribute to for Andrew’s widow’s defense?

I did find the Breitbart Children’s Trust, 149 S. Barrington Ave. #735, Los Angeles, CA 90049 (that was set up by National Review) and I’ve just contributed to that.

My opinion (worth every bit of what you pay for it) is that Andrew Breitbart was murdered, though it’s unlikely that we will ever find out for certain.

Whatever the truth may be, those harrassing his widow and children deserve our everlasting scorn. If there is any way that Kirkland and Ellis, and their ilk, can be made to suffer- I sure hope someone will tell me how!

Can someone please kick Jesse Ventura in the balls for suing Chris Kyle’s widow?

    thorleywinston in reply to Andy. | October 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    It may require a pair of extra-strong bifocals or a microscope to locate the target but I’d be up for the task.

When given a taste of thier own medicine the piggies squeal. Are we supposed to feel badly because the turds can’t take what they dish out?

“King & Spalding gave in to the pressure quickly, and dropped the representation. In protest, Clement resigned from the firm.”

It’s always been a question of taking the easy path, or standing up for what is right against a tide of public sentiment that has no grounding in facts.

Clement stood his ground, while his firm caved. It’s sad to see how this distills into other laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act, and how people extort businesses because it’s easier to pay off than to litigate.

We live in an insane asylum with the inmates running the show.

The next round seems obvious, for law firms to split in response to boycott/harassment campaigns with one component representing and the other component taking their non-political customers. And when things end well, a merger might be in their future.

southcentralpa | October 11, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Sherrod has her gov’t settlement, and yet K&E is representing her pro bono? That’s where things stop passing the smell test.

If there was some important precedent beyond “Mess with the race hustle industry and you will be pursued without mercy and without charge to the race hustlers” to be set that would be different, but there’s not.

The whole point of Breitbart airing the Sherrod video was not at all about Ms Sherrod’s racist thoughts or actions. Breitbart showed the video for the sole purpose of displaying the racist nature of the NAACP by showing the approving chuckles, laughter and comments by the assembled in the audience at the NAACP convention. It was a counter to the left’s assertion that the Tea Party is racist. And since Andrew had no authority to have Ms Sherrod fired from her job I fail to see how the widow Breitbart bears any liability.

DavidJackSmith | October 11, 2013 at 4:27 pm

This scumbag lawfirm seems to want to play hardball and harass the widow of a conservative Icon…

Okay — so who are their clients that they earns their untold MILLIONS from?

Interestingly they have many clients who like to do business with conservatives.

General Motors
Bank of America
well well, BAIN CAPITAL
American Express

and many more found here:

They should be made aware what their lawyers get up to with THEIR money PRO BONO


This woman should be in a prison cell along side of Hillary and Pelosi.