We wrote here about King & Spalding’s firing the House of Representatives as a client in connection with the Defense of Marriage Act, reportedly after complaints by other clients of the firm. This sad episode illustrates how deeply engrained liberal assumptions and attitudes are inside the establishment. A number of commentators have argued that King & Spalding’s withdrawal violated legal ethics rules. I have not studied the matter thoroughly enough to have a professional opinion on that question, but the claim certainly is plausible.
Now King & Spalding is starting to experience blowback: the Attorney General of Virginia has fired the firm from work it has been doing for the state since 2009. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sent King & Spalding a blistering letter which apparently was copied to the Washington Examiner:
King & Spalding’s willingness to drop a client, the U.S. House of Representatives, in connection with the lawsuit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was such an obsequious act of weakness that I feel compelled to end your legal association with Virginia so that there is no chance that one of my legal clients will be put in the embarrassing and difficult situation like the client you walked away from, the House of Representatives.
Virginia does not shy away from hiring outside counsel because they may have ongoing professional relationships with people or entities, or on behalf of causes that I, or my office, or Virginia as a while may not support. But it is crucial for us to be able to trust and rely on the fact that our outside counsel will not desert Virginia due to pressure by an outside group or groups.
Virginia seeks firms of commitment, courage, strength and toughness, and unfortunately, what the world has learned of King & Spalding, is that your firm utterly lacks such qualities.
Ouch. The Examiner story does not describe the nature or status of the work the law firm was doing for Virginia, so we don’t know how significant this termination was in economic terms. Certainly, however, no law firm wants to receive such a letter from a client, let alone have it be made public.