BREAKING: John Boehner’s $5 Million Attorney Drops DOMA Defense

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John Boehner's $5 Million Man

Last week, ThinkProgress reported that the House GOP hired Paul Clement, a former Solicitor General who earns $5 million a year, to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act at the sky high rate of $520 per hour — all billed to the American taxpayer. John Boehner’s $5 million man did not stay on the case for long, however. According to a statement released by Clement’s firm:

Today the firm filed a motion to withdraw from its engagement to represent the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives on the constitutional issues regarding Section III of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Last week we worked diligently through the process required for withdrawal.

In reviewing this assignment further, I determined that the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate. Ultimately I am responsible for any mistakes that occurred and apologize for the challenges this may have created.

Speaker Boehner’s office went out of its way to conceal the high cost of hiring Clement until he was forced to disclose this information under pressure from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office. Additionally, it’s not quite clear what Clement’s firm, King and Spalding, means when they claim that their “vetting…was inadequate,” but it is likely that they were feeling the pressure from gay rights groups questioning the firm’s decision to toss the gay community under the bus. King and Spalding previously earned high marks for its employment practices regarding gay attorneys and staff, but its decision to take the anti-gay position in one of the most high profile gay rights cases in the country could not have sent a welcoming message to the firm’s gay employees.


The Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel reports that Clement has submitted a letter of resignation to King and Spalding, although his firm has yet to confirm his resignation. Clement is one of K&S’ marque law partners, so their decision to lose him rather than defending this unconstitutional law is a powerful sign of how the economics of the legal profession has changed. A major law firm now fears that they have more to lose from being labeled defenders of discrimination than they do from losing one of their most prestigious lawyers.

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,Clement’s letter of resignation from King and Spalding is here. In it, Clement explains that he will continue to defend DOMA:

I would have never undertaken this matter unless I believed I had the fully backing of the firm. I recognized from the outset that this statute implicates very sensitive issues that prompt strong views on both sides. But having undertaken the representation, I believe there is no honorable course for me but to complete it. If there were problems with the firm’s vetting process, we should fix the vetting process, not drop the representation.

It’s unclear where Clement will land now that he has quit his law firm. Any firm that hires Clement will also be bringing on Clement’s involvement in the DOMA litigation — a move that is certain to send the same discriminatory message King and Spalding sent when they initially agreed to defend this law.

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,Clement has joined Bancroft PLLC, a small law firm captained by two former Bush Administration officials.

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