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Not every position deserves a lawyer

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In a recent editorial, the LA Times argued that DOMA deserves a defense. Maya Rupert from the NCLR exposes the fallacy behind its reasoning in this op-ed:

The Times takes the curious step of extending the familiar maxim that "every person deserves a lawyer" to the more expansive "every position deserves a lawyer." The first is a fundamental right upon which we base our criminal justice system. The other is a fiction that mistakenly seeks to insulate a shortsighted law firm from criticism for its decision to defend a discriminatory law. . . .

Civil liberties organizations, for example, have repeatedly, and admirably, defended plaintiffs whose views they abhor (such as members of the Ku Klux Klan), in order to protect cherished principles like freedom of speech and assembly. In this case, there is no greater good, no cherished larger issue at stake; the only issue contested is discrimination. There is no venerable tradition of lawyers defending laws that single out certain groups for discrimination....

A private lawyer is under no obligation -- from a state bar, pursuant to ethical rules, or out of respect for the adversarial process -- to defend an indefensible law. Those who choose to defend such a law do so at the peril of their reputations as fair-minded and just advocates. Clement has made a decision not just to stand on the wrong side of history but to lead the charge on that side . . . He is free to do so, but we should not pretend that decision represents a magnanimous fidelity to the adversarial process or to justice. [emphasis added]
Equality Matters' Richard Socarides echoes this concern, as quoted by Greg Sargent:
“He tries to make the case that lawyers should represent unpopular causes — but this is not merely an unpopular cause, this is an un-American cause,” Socarides said. “If a lawyer represents an unpopular client who’s defending an important principle, that is what the legal system is about. If the client is unpopular but the principle is important, then it’s important to do.”

“But this is not an important principle,” Socarides continued. “The only principle he wishes to defend is discrimination and second class citizenship for gay Americans. It’s very wrong.”
Richard also echoed a point John made in an earlier post:
“For a big law firm with an international reputation like King and Spalding, this could have gotten very ugly for them,” Socarides said. ”This kind of thing could have stuck to them for decades. People no longer want to be associated with this kind of discrimination. A firm like this competes at all the top law schools to recruit all the top students. I’m sure they took a look at this and said, `What do we need this for?’”

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