Pro bono law morphs into left-wing lawfare

Do you remember Shirley Sherrod? She’s the former Department of Agriculture official caught on camera saying she denied a white farmer the full measure of benefits she could have given him, before later describing how she ended up rejecting this racist approach to her job.

The late Andrew Breitbart posted excerpts of the Sherrod video that failed to include the part about how she overcame her racist impulse and ended up helping the white farmer.

The Obama administration fired Sherrod after Breitbart posted the video. However, based on a review of the full video, Sherrod was offered a new position at the Department of Agriculture.

Even so, Sherrod decided to sue Breitbart. And now that Andrew is no longer with us, she is pursuing her claim against his widow.

Sherrod’s vengeful, spiteful crusade against Andrew’s widow is being prosecuted by lawyers at the mega-firm of Kirkland & Ellis. They are doing so on a pro bono basis. In other words, they are doing it for free.

The modern left has hopelessly perverted the concept of pro bono representation, and Sherrod’s case against Andrew’s widow is a near-perfect manifestation of that perversion. As Christian Adams explains:

Once upon a time, pro bono representation was provided to those who could not afford a lawyer after finding themselves in dire straits. Imagine a widow with children being sued by a landlord in an eviction lawsuit. Law firms, acting out of a sense of charity, might donate time to the widow to help her avoid eviction.

In the case of Andrew Breitbart, however, that script is flipped. Lawyers for the monster Big Law firm Kirkland & Ellis are representing Shirley Sherrod against Andrew Breitbart’s widow, for free.

The widow Breitbart clearly is not the prototypical target of an old-fashioned pro bono representation. But then, neither is Sherrod a prototypical pro bono plaintiff. Adams reminds us:

[A] farming collective associated with Sherrod’s family was the beneficiary of a multi-million dollar windfall settlement from the. . .Agriculture Department. In the same settlement, Sherrod and her family even received $150,000 for pain and suffering in the racial discrimination case against the USDA. . . .

Clearly, we have entered the new world of pro bono law in which big law firms assist the political left in conducting “lawfare.”

Adams illustrates the phenomenon by reviewing Kirkland & Ellis’ pro bono portfolio — one which, in my experience, is typical of the kinds of pro bono work other big law firms handle or aspire to take on:

• Pro bono attacks on North Carolina’s election integrity laws, including voter ID. Thomas Yannucci, the same lawyer heading the complaint against Andrew Breitbart and now Andrew’s widow, is also on the march against North Carolina voter ID. Never mind that a vast majority of Americans support voter ID, including a majority of blacks and Democrats.

• Helping illegal aliens stay in the United States.

• Sending 120 salaried lawyers to help left-wing groups monitor polls on Election Day 2012. Kirkland coordinated election day activities with. . .the same left-wing group, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, [that] hassled Tea Party organizations on the eve of the election, ironically threatening them for similar plans to monitor the polls on election day. How far out of the mainstream is the organization? It actually asked the United Nations to monitor American elections.

• Support for a hodgepodge of leftist groups like Centro Legal de La Raza, Public Advocates, Inc., the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU Foundation, and the Nature Conservancy. . . .

• Aiding the radical pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights that seeks to criminalize free speech by members of the Catholic Church through United Nations-sponsored treaty intervention. There’s no mention of Kirkland support of any pro-life organizations, or even health care services to women who seek to preserve life (like Tepeyac Family Center or the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center). When it comes to the life vs. abortion debate, Kirkland money seems to have taken one side.

• Providing financial support to racialist groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), a group regularly on the side of opposing election integrity and making it easier for voter fraud to occur.

• Giving financial support to the Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a group working to impose gun control in Washington D.C.

• Aiding the anti-GOP and open borders group OneJustice. Kirkland lawyers have been working closely with OneJustice to help illegal aliens stay in the United States.

Speaking of Christian Adams, Kirkland & Ellis has subpoenaed him to testify at a deposition in Sherrod’s suit against Breitbart’s widow. As I understand it, Adams had no role in the posting of the video excerpts. Dragging him into the litigation appears to be harassment, a fishing expedition, or both.

Paying clients, particularly when they are individuals, tend not to countenance depositions taken for purposes of harassment and/or “fishing.” But that’s the beauty of pro bono work. The client doesn’t pay, the law firm boosts the number of pro bono hours it can brag about, and the left pursues its political agenda — in Sherrod’s case the attempt to chill conservative media.

In this instance, though, Kirkland & Ellis has done legal lore a favor by pestering Adams. An overreaching and obnoxious “lawyer letter” from a K&E lawyer demanding the production of documents elicited a hilarious response from Robert Driscoll who is representing Adams.

Joe Patrice at Above the Law calls Driscoll’s missive “the best smackdown letter you’ll see today.” To me, it’s the best smackdown letter I’ve seen in years.

Please read it. It will make your day. If you’re a lawyer, it might make your week.

Adams promises to cover his deposition at PJ Media. I will cover Adams’ coverage.

JOHN adds: This is why I get annoyed when people talk about “establishment Republicans.” The establishment is not Republican. It is more or less 100% Democrat.

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