When King & Spaulding announced their withdrawal from defending DOMA, the firm’s chairman Robert Hays Jr. said, “In reviewing this assignment further, I determined that the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate.” In response Paul Clement resigned from King & Spaulding so he could defend DOMA independently and said, “I would have never undertaken this matter unless I believed I had the full backing of the firm… If there were problems with the firm’s vetting process, we should fix the vetting process, not drop the representation.” Since then, Clement has been viewed as a conservative hero standing up to the nasty gays that pressured his firm into withdrawing from the case. But it turns out Clement committed K&S to defend DOMA before his firm’s ethics committee had even OK’d the decision.
King & Spalding partner J. Sedwick Sollers [said,] “I want to make sure the record is clear that I was the member of firm management in primary contact with Paul Clement regarding this matter. As I have reflected on this, despite the fact that our standard client/matter review process was not followed, it was reasonable for him to believe that the firm would accept the matter. This was an unfortunate misunderstanding with a friend whom I personally recruited to the firm and strongly supported. I am deeply disappointed by Paul’s departure and regret the breakdown in communications.”
So is Clement’s jumping the gun a result of an internal miscommunication or was he just so hot for hate that he couldn’t wait to get his hands on a piece of sexy DOMA? Metro Weekly‘s Poliglot breaks it down two ways:
Although the Journal’s Nathan Koppel characterizes this statement as “back[ing] Clement’s earlier comments that he believed he had the all-clear before taking the assignment,” the statement only appears to acknowledge that a previously established vetting process for the firm — of going through the ethics committee before taking on the representation — was not followed in this case.
Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, tells Metro Weekly that he views the new information far differently that the Journal’s Koppel, writing, “What this new insider account suggests is that Clement did not follow the rules of his own firm, he was at least partly to blame for taking the case before the firm gave its approval, and now, if there are legal ethics questions, they are at least in some way his own fault. None of which should be earning him praise from the legal community.”
No matter whether Clement obligated the firm out of misunderstanding or in over-eager presumption, you can bet he’ll be the conservative pin-up boy for agreeing to do dirty work that his firm couldn’t stomach.