Al-Qaeda, Yes; DOMA, No
The strange priorities of the Lawyer Left are on display.


Andrew C. McCarthy

Clearly, K&S had not taken the measure of Mr. Clement, who is of the old school, in which lawyers were taught not to abandon clients they’d agreed to help just because the heat gets turned up. Upon hearing of his firm’s decision, he promptly resigned from K&S and announced that he is keeping the case. In a nice touch — and one that signals the long day the gay-rights lawyers are in for when they tangle with him — Clement closed his letter by shaming the Chicken Littles with the words of a K&S eminence, the late Griffin Bell: “You are not required to take every matter that is presented to you, but having assumed a representation, it becomes your duty to finish the representation.”

Judge Bell, of course, was a U.S. attorney general, but his words have no more resonance at today’s Justice Department than at his former firm.

Which brings us to the Obama DOJ’s al-Qaeda Seven. Can we finally agree that they really are the “al-Qaeda Seven,” just like lawyers who choose to represent mobsters are commonly called “mob lawyers”? Caterwauls cascaded down upon Liz Cheney, Bill Kristol, and Debra Burlingame several months back when their organization, Keep America Safe, had the temerity to apply the “al-Qaeda Seven” label to seven DOJ lawyers who volunteered their professional services to our enemies, gratis, to help them file lawsuits against the American people, challenging their detention as enemy combatants in their war against the United States. 

How dare anyone suggest that volunteering to help the enemy during wartime might somehow intimate a teeny bit of sympathy for the enemy, carped Mr. Holder — having himself voluntarily filed an amicus brief on behalf of Jose Padilla, the “dirty bomber” sent to America by al-Qaeda to attempt a second wave of post-9/11 attacks. The case of Padilla (who has since been convicted in yet another terrorist plot) was just one of the many matters Holder’s firm, Covington & Burling, handled while devoting hundreds of pro bono hours to at least 17 terrorist enemy combatants.

Yes, pro bono publico: work that law firms do for free because it is supposedly for the public good. Of course, they don’t really do it for free — it is a redistribution of wealth from the paying clients to lucky indigents the firm chooses to help: social justice in action. It turns out that King & Spalding has a pro bono practice so thriving it has appointed a partner to handle it full time — a former member of the ACLU of Georgia’s advisory board, who oversees the firm’s work on issues such as “prisoner rights,” as the K&S website delicately puts it.

We learn from the website that K&S is especially proud of the work it does for convicted murderers on death row. And back in 2004, the firm also dove into the Supreme Court’s Medellin case, trying to reverse the murder convictions of Mexican gangsters — like the two who had carried out the brutal rape-murder of 14-year-old Jennifer Ertman and 16-year-old Elizabeth Pena — on the grounds that police had failed to notify the Mexican consulate of their arrests.

But here is the real feather in the K&S cap: In 2009, the firm brought aboard the husband-and-wife team of John Chandler and Beth Tanis, with the understanding that the couple would continue representing six enemy combatants to whom they had devoted thousands of pro bono hours since taking the cases in 2004 — because, as Mr. Chandler helpfully explains, “Guantanamo is as much a symbol of American torture as Abu Ghraib.” Chandler and Tanis had some trepidation about whether they’d be able to continue volunteering their time to the terrorists, but Ms. Tanis was relieved to find that “King & Spalding was very supportive” of their Guantanamo work.

What else would you expect? The high dudgeon about lawyers heroically taking on unpopular causes is malarkey. DOMA is unpopular only on the left — but that is enough to ensure that the lawyer Left won’t touch it. But terrorists, murderers, illegal aliens, animal-rights activists, and global-warming alarmists? Count them in.

Social justice is not about ensuring a fair process. It’s about achieving outcomes of which the Left approves, by any means necessary. You can tell what they’re for by what they volunteer to do and what they’re against by what they won’t go near. That’s not John Adams. It’s Barack Obama.

 Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.