Saturday, April 23, 2011

KIng & Spalding reportedly places gag order on employees over Defense of Marriage Act

Posted By on Sat, Apr 23, 2011 at 9:22 AM

The Atlanta-based King & Spalding, a huge firm with 800 attorneys in 16 offices around the globe, has been the focus of intense criticism this week for taking House Republicans on as a client to defend the Defense of Marriage Act — the law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriage — in court. HuffPo has a piece about the backlash aimed at K&S by gay organizations in D.C.

A legal blogger for the center-left Atlantic Monthly, however, argues the admittedly standard lawyerly line, namely that a law firm shouldn't be judged on the base of a single client or case, no matter how distasteful.

Generally speaking, I'd agree with that logic, as far as it goes. But if a law firm shows a clear partisan bias through the types of clients or cases it takes — or goes out of its way to hire attorneys or rainmakers with a particular type of baggage — then such criticism is less easy to deflect. Not that I have the sense that K&S has gone out of its way to cultivate a certain clientele.

However, Metro Weekly, a gay paper in D.C., has a piece that's perhaps a little more alarming. It reports that K&S has forbidden any of its staffers from speaking against the Defense of Marriage Act.

The attorney-client agreement, the article reports, "prohibits all King & Spalding attorneys and non-attorney employees from any advocacy to 'alter or amend' DOMA," a provision that one legal expert quoted said could itself violate the labor laws of several states.

The Metro Weekly article also quotes Jeffery Cleghorn, an immediate past president of the Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia:

"As a past president and a gay lawyer in Atlanta, though, I do think I can say that, for gay lawyers throughout Georgia, we are traumatized by the decision of this law firm and this business to take on a client that is in essence trying to do harm to us and our families and LGBT Americans across the country."

The current president of the Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia, the paper reports, is one Brian Basinger, an associate at — you guessed it — K&S. He did not return the reporter's messages. Awkward.

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