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HRC Confirms it Pressured King & Spalding's Clients on DOMA Issue


Greg Sargent at The Plum Line talks to HRC about claims by conservative bloggers that "the left engaged in an 'unprincipled campaign' of intimidation" after King & Spalding decided to take on the DOMA defense.

Sainz HRC's Fred Sainz (pictured) unapologetically confirms the group did pressure the firm's clients.

Good for them:

Sainz said his group did not ask any of the firm’s clients to drop the firm in retaliation for taking the case, as is being assumed by conservatives who are alleging an untoward pressure campaign. Rather, he said, his group informed the firm’s clients that taking the case was out of sync with King and Spalding’s commitment to diversity, which it proudly advertises on its Web site.

“King and Spalding’s clients are listed on its web site, so we did what you would expect us to do,” Sainz told me. “We are an advocacy firm that is dedicated to improving the lives of gays and lesbians. It is incumbent on us to launch a full-throated educational campaign so firsm know that these kinds of engagements will reflect on the way your clients and lawschool recruits think of your firm.”

“We did all of this, and we’re proud to have done it,” added Sainz, who declined to name which King and Spalding clients his group contacted.

UPDATE: Another report says Coca-Cola was the client to get King & Spalding off the case.

Sources with knowledge of the backlash confirm that one of King & Spalding's top clients, Coca Cola, also based in Atlanta, directly intervened to press the firm to extricate itself from the case.

A Coca Cola spokesman declined to comment on or off the record for this story, but pointed TPM to the company's long public history of support for equality and diversity.

Gay rights group: You’re damn right we pressured law firm on DOMA [plum line]

Background on King & Spalding's involvement
Paul Clement Resigns from King & Spalding [tr]
King & Spalding Firm Backing Out of DOMA Case [tr]
Protests Planned for DOMA-Defending Law Firm [tr]
King & Spalding Firm to Face Backlash Over Defending DOMA [tr]
DOMA Firm's Gag Order Revealed [tr]
DOMA Defense to Cost American Taxpayers $500K, Maybe More [tr]
House Files Motion to Intervene in DOMA Lawsuit [tr]
Former Bush Solicitor General Paul Clement to Lead DOMA Defense [tr]
DOMA-Defending Attorney Paul Clement's Firm is Proud of its Pro-LGBT Policies [tr]

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  1. And good for them for finally playing the same game that our enemies have been using against us all along.

    Posted by: MrRoboto | Apr 26, 2011 1:26:41 PM

  2. I don't see how this is intimidation at all! If a firm wants to back discrimination, then they should be prepared for consequences. It would have been a different story if HRC sent the firm threatening letters, or bullied their clients, but from what I can tell so far, it just sounds like they are informing K&S's clients of what is happening. Nothing wrong there.

    I do love how K&S, along with NOM, along with all the Prop. 8 backers, are all so quick to play the victim card once the tables turn against them. If you're gonna do something, do it all the way. Don't hide behind anonymity and then balk when that anonymity is stripped away. Be proud of what you did, and if you're not, then maybe you should reconsider the act before doing it in the first place.

    Posted by: Austin | Apr 26, 2011 1:35:52 PM

  3. write to King & Spaulding thanking them for position and difficult decision

    Posted by: chris | Apr 26, 2011 1:43:02 PM

  4. Looks like the bigots will lose their favorite drink now. Ministers will be calling for the boycott of Coca-Cola like they did with Pepsi.

    Posted by: Scott E. | Apr 26, 2011 1:54:36 PM

  5. Austin is right on the message. As usual, when the haters are doing it, it's OK. But when we stand up for our rights by informing (as opposed to threatening) others of what the haters are doing, we are accused of mounting an "untoward pressure campaign" (as if that's a bad thing). If the haters want to understand what a negative pressure campaign REALLY is, then Google the term "gay marriage" along with, say, "Mormon Church" or "Catholic Church" or "NOM". Now those are pressure campaigns full of threatening lies, insinuation and misdirection. Kudos to HRC for some backdone in this effort with K&S. Can I get an Amen?

    Posted by: Rob | Apr 26, 2011 1:55:20 PM

  6. Glad to see HRC step up here. They, along with K&S and Coke, have moved up a few notches in my book.

    Posted by: Blake | Apr 26, 2011 2:17:10 PM

  7. AMEN!

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Apr 26, 2011 2:17:17 PM

  8. King and Spalding has long been a prominent law firm in the Atlanta area, competently working with primarily corporate clients. Influential in the wider community, but never a splashy, high-profile firm. This case had the potential of damaging its reputation. It certainly did not need the $500,000 potential fee. Coca-Cola probably does multiples of that amount in business with them every year.

    Corporate clients want their law firms to be competent, but without too much public scrutiny. Client confidentiality is, after all, essential to the practice of law.

    I also imagine the "gag order" part of the representation agreement, that applied to all K&S employees, caused no small amount of trouble for the firm's leadership.

    Posted by: james | Apr 26, 2011 2:20:02 PM

  9. Disgraceful. HRC does nothing for years, then when it finally acts, it does this.

    Pressuring lawyers who take on unpopular clients was wrong when the Republicans did it to defense counsel for Guantanamo detainees, and it's wrong here, too. The bad guys aren't the law firm. The bad guys are the House Republicans who hired them.

    [And no, I am not a lawyer. I'm just a fan of the rule of law.]

    Posted by: BABH | Apr 26, 2011 2:26:46 PM

  10. @BABH, the rule of law has not been compromised here. Paul Clement will still defend DOMA, albeit with another law firm, Bancroft.

    I hope his defense is vigorous so when DOMA is ruled unconstitutional by the court, no one will be able to say it is because the defense side didn't have a good lawyer.

    Posted by: james | Apr 26, 2011 2:54:53 PM

  11. Interesting tidbit from the K&S website, "People" tab. George C. Crawford is the Sr Govt Relations Advisor in their DC office. He was Nancy Pelosi's Chief of Staff before joining King and Spalding. Must have been some interesting conversations in that office over the last few days!

    Posted by: jpeckjr | Apr 26, 2011 2:57:55 PM

  12. If only you were a fan of logic and common sense, too.

    An un-Constitutional law isn't a "client". Injustice doesn't have a right to be defended. And pointing out hypocrisy to a hypocrite isn't "pressuring".

    Nice histrionics, though.

    Posted by: ohplease | Apr 26, 2011 3:00:13 PM

  13. James: Yes, it has. Careful lawyers (i.e., the good ones) are now on notice that they have to consider the political effect on their own practice of the clients they serve. The losers are unpopular litigants - the ones who most need vigorous representation in court, since they get skewered by public opinion.

    HRC just coursened our society another notch.

    Posted by: BABH | Apr 26, 2011 3:01:22 PM

  14. OHPLEASE: Congress is the client. There is a Congressional statute of dubious constitutionality (you and I think it's unconstitutional, but it quite rightly gets the presumption of constitutionality in court). It shouldn't be controversial to be a politically neutral lawyer employed by Congress to defend its prerogatives.

    Posted by: BABH | Apr 26, 2011 3:16:39 PM

  15. can't understand why anyone would be upset about hrc pressuring the law firm into backing out of the case. this is the same tactic nom, the catholic league and focus on the family have been using for years. time the tables were turned on them. about time

    Posted by: walter | Apr 26, 2011 3:17:21 PM

  16. For the first time, HRC and our opponents are on the same page: giving HRC credit it doesn't deserve.

    The idea that "pressure" from HRC resulted in this fiasco is absurd.

    Posted by: BobN | Apr 26, 2011 3:21:54 PM

  17. Walter: NOM, FRC and the Catholic League are evil organizations. They tell vicious lies under oath. Should we do that too? Or should we try to avoid being evil in pursuit of the good?

    Posted by: BABH | Apr 26, 2011 3:29:11 PM

  18. Let me put it another way:
    We have gained nothing (Clement will still argue the case), but we have lost some of our moral authority. How is this in any way a victory?

    Posted by: BABH | Apr 26, 2011 3:32:29 PM

  19. Good on you Babh! 100000% right on. It shut people up too! You are now a hero of mine.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Apr 26, 2011 3:48:28 PM

  20. I'm going to drink a can of Coca Cola today to celebrate. Coke is it!

    Posted by: ken | Apr 26, 2011 3:51:39 PM

  21. I'd like to "bi" the world a Coke...

    ...but seriously, I don't see what's wrong with telling a company you don't like its practices and saying you'll protest them if they don't change their ways.

    Posted by: Matthew Rettenmund | Apr 26, 2011 4:03:51 PM

  22. Matthew: I guess what's wrong is that you *should* like the practice of a law firm representing their clients, even (especially?) their odious clients. It's sort of what they're there for.

    Posted by: BABH | Apr 26, 2011 4:38:45 PM

  23. An "unprincipled campaign"? Are you f**king kidding me?

    We're just holding K&S accountable for their choice of clients. If they truly believe in human rights, their client choice will reflect that.

    Posted by: Steve | Apr 26, 2011 6:42:12 PM

  24. they might have the right to defend the scum but i maintain the right to let them know that their actions have consequences and i reservr the right to protest their defense of these clients.

    Posted by: walter | Apr 26, 2011 7:01:31 PM

  25. Is that troll stench I smell from BABH posts?
    or just Sully?

    Posted by: mcNnyc | Apr 26, 2011 7:30:01 PM

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