Professor Dale Carpenter

  • April 29, 2011

    With much discussion about a supposedly powerful gay lobby bullying one of the nation’s largest law firms into dumping the House Republicans’ effort to defend a federal anti-gay law, Minnesota law professor Dale Carpenter providers another view of the matter writing in a piece for The New York Times that the law firm’s decision to quit the case cannot be “dismissed simply as a matter of political correctness or bullying by gays.”

    After the law firm, King & Spalding, announced earlier this week that it would not defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on behalf of House Republicans, the attorney tapped to lead the defense, former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, resigned his position and moved to another law firm, taking the DOMA case with him.

    Following Clement’s resignation, the highly thoughtful, articulate and entertaining blogger Andrew Sullivan noted, “To put pressure on lawyers defending clients or laws because lobby groups don’t like them is deeply illiberal. It remains disgusting, for example, that rightwing groups targeted lawyers defending terror suspects and Gitmo prisoners. When the far right did this, it was despicable. Now that the left is doing it, it remains just as despicable.”

    U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. praised Clement for his action, saying “I think he is doing that which lawyers do when we are at our best. I don’t know what happened between him and King & Spalding, I’m not casting blame. … But I think those who are critical of him for taking that representation, that criticism I think is very misplaced.”

    Professor Carpenter, however, looks at the process by which “Gay-rights supporters have transformed the law and the legal profession, opening the doors of law firms, law schools and courts to people who were once casually and cruelly shut out because of their sexual orientation.”

    Carpenter’s piece also adds:

    No serious case can be made that an institution as powerful as Congress has a right to the services of the biggest law firms and the most credentialed lawyers. The Defense of Marriage Act is not unpopular, and while Congress may be indebted, it is not indigent. A thornier question arises when a firm withdraws from a representation, though in this case the quick withdrawal evidently caused no harm to the client. More troubling is the possibility that a firm might quit because of outside economic pressure rather than principle, though it is unclear whether such pressure played a role in this case.