Kirkland & Ellis Law Firm Forces Out Conservative Superstar Paul Clement After He Won Big SCOTUS 2nd Amendment Case
WSJ Editorial Board: “Kirkland’s invertebrate abdication illustrates how progressive ideology dominates the commanding heights of American law, business and culture. If you want to know why a groundswell of opposition against this woke conformity is building in the provinces, this is it.”
We have covered the loss not only of institutions, but also institutional norms. Medicine and the sciences, once thought to have natural immunity, now are infected with progressive political orthodoxy. It goes on and on, including not only law schools, but also the American Bar Association Council, the dominant law school accreditor. Oh, and the large corporations are some of the worst offenders through HR reigns of terror, but you knew that.
But it doesn’t stop there. The large law firms that represent large corporations also are corrupted.
We covered one such case back in 2011, when conservative superstar lawyer Paul Clement was forced to leave the large law firm King & Spalding after Clement agreed to represent the House of Representatives in the Defense of Marriage Act case. Private representation for the House was necessary because the Obama Justice Department, after having defended the legality of DOMA, suddenly dropped the representation and claimed DOMA was unlawful. After King & Spalding came under activst pressure, which included junior lawyers threatening to quit, disruption of law school recruiting, and threatened protests at King & Spalding clients (the largest of which was Coca Cola), King & Spalding dropped the representation. But it still represented Gitmo detainees. Clement, to his credit, refused to drop the House as a client, and was forced to leave King & Spalding.
A little over a decade later, Clement has faced the same problem at Kirkland & Ellis, a massive law firm that represents much of corporate America and is reported to have among the highest partner compensation, well into the seven figure range. Kirkland has a large pro bono program, where it provides thousands of hours of free legal service to mostly progressive clients and issues.
Clement was lead counsel in the U.S. Supreme Court Bruen case which found NY State’s concealed carry restrictions to be unconstitutional. SCOTUS has come under withering attack from Democrats and the media for the decision, which vigorously defended citizen rights under the 2nd Amendment.
Kirkland & Ellis folded, much as King & Spalding folded a decade earlier, and Clement faced a choice – end his 2nd Amendment law practice, or leave the firm, which no longer would seek to uphold the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Clement left the firm rather than give up such an important constitutional law practice and abandon his clients.
Clement and his law partner Erin Murphy wrote about it in The Wall Street Journal:
We are blessed to have represented before the Supreme Court a wide variety of clients, from large corporations and religious orders to criminal defendants and Native American groups. After we prevail before the high court, we generally receive a round of congratulatory messages from law-firm colleagues for a job well done, especially when we have helped our clients vindicate their fundamental constitutional rights.
This time around, we received a very different message from our law firm. Having just secured a landmark decision vindicating our clients’ constitutional Second Amendment rights in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, we were presented with a stark choice—withdraw from representing them or withdraw from the firm. There was only one choice: We couldn’t abandon our clients simply because their positions are unpopular in some circles….
This isn’t the first time we have left a firm to stick by a client. What makes this circumstance different is that the firm approved our representation of these clients years ago, and dropping them would cost the clients years of institutional memory. More remarkable still, in one of the cases we were asked to drop, we prevailed in the Supreme Court on Thursday. Those who object to the representation are thus taking issue with the Constitution as interpreted by a majority of the high court.
Kirkland & Ellis cared more about remaining popular in the prevailing progressive legal world than in fulfilling the highest duties of lawyers. Clement continued:
The Constitution is the foundation of American liberty, but it isn’t self-executing. It depends on lawyers who are willing to take on controversial matters and on judges who are able to hear the best possible arguments from both sides. The Supreme Court’s jurisdiction is limited to cases and controversies, which means the justices can’t uphold rights without an advocate to make the argument.
The American legal profession’s willingness to take on and stand by controversial clients has made our system of justice the envy of the world. The profession shouldn’t back down from its willingness to tackle the most divisive issues. We certainly won’t.
Our decision, then, has little to do with the issues in this case and everything to do with the underlying principle. We would make the same choice for any of our clients. The scope of the Second Amendment and the plague of gun violence are more controversial than the Federal Arbitration Act or even religious speech. But that makes resisting the pressure to drop an unpopular client all the more crucial. The problems posed by the spate of recent violent gun crimes are real. But the solution isn’t to fire clients who have just vindicated a fundamental constitutional right. We are sticking with our clients.
Clement & Murphy are stand up people who bring honor to the best traditions of the legal profession. Kirlkand & Ellis are not.
“Paul and Erin have been valued colleagues,” said Jon A. Ballis, Chairman of Kirkland’s Executive Committee. “We wish them the best of luck in the future and we look forward to collaborating with them in the future in matters not involving the Second Amendment.”
Law Professor Jonathan Turley notes that what Kirkland & Ellis did to Clement & Murphy reflects a deepening problem in the legal profession, attempts by Democrat activists to deprive Republicans and conservatives of legal representation:
As previously discussed, there has been a campaign from the left to pressure firms to force out Republican lawyers or to drop conservative clients (with the support of lawyers and legal commentators). Now, after former Solicitor General Paul Clement and his colleague Erin Murphy won one of the most significant constitutional victories in history, Kirkland & Ellis has yielded to the mob and forced them out of the firm. It seems that, if you want to take a Second Amendment case, you should have the decency of losing. In a column in the Wall Street Journal, the lawyers recount how they were shown the door after objections from lawyers in the firm and clients. The left appears to be channeling the views of Dick the Butcher in Shakespeare’s Henry VI that “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”
With no sense of shame or self-awareness, Jon Ballis, chairman of Kirkland’s executive committee, said “We wish them the best of luck in the future and look forward to collaborating with them in matters not involving the Second Amendment.”Imagine if the firm said that about defending other individuals rights like equal protection or privacy. It is not hard because that was the position at one time where lawyers were told not to represent women, civil rights groups, or other causes.
Now, it is the left that is pressuring firms not to represent those asserting rights contained in the Bill of Rights. Ballis is saying that you are welcome to return as long as you do not represent those people who want to submit claims to the federal courts on constitutional rights.
Megan McArdle in The Washington Post makes a similar point:
Lawyers used to have a standard response to people who complained about their choice of clients: Everyone, no matter how noxious, deserves representation. A Washington law firm might find itself representing Richard M. Nixon and Ted Kennedy at the same time; the American Civil Liberties Union could end up defending the right of Nazis to march through a Jewish neighborhood in Skokie, Ill.
So it’s troubling to see a major firm not just ruling out a whole category of cases but also forcing its attorneys to choose between representing their current clients or keeping their jobs….
This is obviously bad for conservative lawyers, and for a society that aspires to liberal values. But it’s not great for the left, as it essentially doubles down on a strategy that has already failed: using the left’s control over key institutions to essentially rule some ideas, or policies, out of bounds.
Kirkland & Ellis probably doesn’t care, and its partners will continue to make millions a year. But it shamed itself, and contributes in ways it is incapable of understanding to the growing backlash, as The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote:
Kirkland’s invertebrate abdication illustrates how progressive ideology dominates the commanding heights of American law, business and culture. If you want to know why a groundswell of opposition against this woke conformity is building in the provinces, this is it.
The backlash is going to be glorious.DONATE
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