As previously discussed, there has been a campaign from the left to pressure firms to force out Republican lawyers or to drop conservative clients (with the support of lawyers and legal commentators). Now, after former Solicitor General Paul Clement and his colleague Erin Murphy won one of the most significant constitutional victories in history, Kirkland & Ellis has yielded to the mob and forced them out of the firm. It seems that, if you want to take a Second Amendment case, you should have the decency of losing. In a column in the Wall Street Journal, the lawyers recount how they were shown the door after objections from lawyers in the firm and clients. The left appears to be channeling the views of Dick the Butcher in Shakespeare’s Henry VI that “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”
With no sense of shame or self-awareness, Jon Ballis, chairman of Kirkland’s executive committee, said “We wish them the best of luck in the future and look forward to collaborating with them in matters not involving the Second Amendment.”Imagine if the firm said that about defending other individuals rights like equal protection or privacy. It is not hard because that was the position at one time where lawyers were told not to represent women, civil rights groups, or other causes.
Now, it is the left that is pressuring firms not to represent those asserting rights contained in the Bill of Rights. Ballis is saying that you are welcome to return as long as you do not represent those people who want to submit claims to the federal courts on constitutional rights.
The Supreme Court has decided since Heller that the Second Amendment bestows an individual right. Many disagree with that view, but these are issues that need to be fully and well argued before the courts on both sides. I would be writing the same column if conservatives sought to prevent lawyers from representing pro-choice or gun control clients. What is astonishing is that this effort sounds like it was pushed by other lawyers, including former colleagues at the firm.
In the past, the effort to deny representation to conservative groups was led by the scandal-plagued Lincoln Project. What was shocking was the list of donors supporting this and other campaigns by the project. One notable name is Randall Eliason who writes for the Washington Post. Eliason wrote a column that I previously criticized that supported the campaign against other lawyers. While Eliason notes briefly that the Lincoln Project was suspended on Twitter for doxing Trump lawyers and says such abuses are “never appropriate,” he did not mention that he is one of the donors of the group that carried out such abuses.
Having other lawyers calling for such severance of lawyers and clients does not change its character as a form of mob justice. These campaigns have been successful in intimidating firms, including one of the largest firms in the world. Rather than risk the loss of clients, Kirkland & Ellis turned its back on the core legal values that define our profession. This is a huge victory for the voices of intolerance and orthodoxy in our profession. With a major firm like Kirkland surrendering to such pressure, many smaller firms will doubt their own ability to stand on principle against the mob. It is the same movement that has stripped most law schools of conservative or libertarian faculty across the country.
If it is any solace for these lawyers, Chief Justice Earl Warren, a liberal icon, once said “Everything I did in my life that was worthwhile, I caught hell for.”