Lawyers responsible for winning the Supreme Court case concerning the Constitutional right to carry a gun in public have left their law firm after receiving an ultimatum.
Paul Clement, the lead litigator who won a landmark Supreme Court gun rights case Thursday, has exited the law firm Kirkland & Ellis after it announced it would no longer be taking on gun-related cases. Leaving with him is former Kirkland partner Erin Murphy, Clement’s longtime colleague and an experienced Supreme Court litigator in her own right.
According to the Wall Street Journal, clients have been pressuring the firm to drop cases involving the second amendment since the Texas school shooting last month. The firm “started getting a lot of pressure post-Uvalde, hearing from several big-big dollar clients that they were uncomfortable,” the source said. “Several partners agreed that they should drop that representation.”
“Unfortunately, we were given a stark choice: either withdraw from ongoing representations or withdraw from the firm,” Clement said. “Anyone who knows us and our views regarding professional responsibility and client loyalty knows there was only one course open to us: We could not abandon ongoing representations just because a client’s position is unpopular in some circles.”
Clement has previously left major law firms after they expressed discontent with the conservative cases he’s willing to take. In April 2011, Clement left King & Spalding when the firm opted to withdraw from its role as counsel for the Republican-led House of Representatives legal battle over the Defense of Marriage Act.
The decision by King resulted in criticism from lawyers representing every political ideology, with then-Attorney General Eric Holder, an Obama Administration appointee, defending Clement’s decision to leave the firm so that he could continue his representation at Bancroft PLLC. Erin Murphy, who was also working at King & Spalding, also resigned.
In his publicly released resignation letter, Clement explained his decision:
“I resign out of the firmly-held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client’s legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters. Defending unpopular decisions is what lawyers do. The adversary system of justice depends on it, especially in cases where the passions run high. Efforts to delegitimize any representation for one side of a legal controversy are a profound threat to the rule of law. Much has been said about being on the wrong side of history. But being on the right or wrong side of history on the merits is a question for the clients. When it comes to the lawyers, the surest way to be on the wrong side of history is to abandon a client in the face of hostile criticism.”
At Kirkland, Clement was once again given the option of abandoning clients or resigning from the firm. He chose to maintain consistent ethical standards.
Clement is a former United States Solicitor General, a lecturer at Georgetown University, and a graduate of Harvard University.