On Thursday morning, attorneysand
By Thursday evening, they had split from the law firm that employed them after the firm said it would no longer work Second Amendment cases.
Clement and Murphy both served as partners at Kirkland & Ellis, which confirmed to Politico its decision to stop handling gun rights litigation.
According to the two attorneys, they were presented with an ultimatum: “ditch out clients or leave.”
“After we prevail before the high court, we generally receive a round of congratulatory messages from law-firm colleagues for a job well done, especially when we have helped our clients vindicate their fundamental constitutional rights,” Clement and Murphy wrote Thursday in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
This time, after the court struck down some of New York’s restrictions on carrying a handgun and confirmed Americans’ right to carry firearms for self-defense in public, things were different.
“Having just secured a landmark decision vindicating our clients’ constitutional Second Amendment rights in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, we were presented with a stark choice—withdraw from representing them or withdraw from the firm,” the attorneys wrote.
“There was only one choice: We couldn’t abandon our clients simply because their positions are unpopular in some circles.”
Clement and Murphy went on to emphasize the “duty of loyalty” that attorneys owe their clients.
“A lawyer can withdraw from a representation for good reason, like a newly discovered conflict of interest. But defending unpopular clients is what we do,” they wrote.
“The rare individuals and companies lucky enough to be universally popular (for the time being) have less need for lawyers. And the least popular clients are most in need of representation, from the British soldiers after the Boston Massacre to the defendant in the Boston Marathon bombing.”
America’s justice system “depends on the representation of controversial clients,” Clement and Murphy said, “no matter which side has most of big law rooting for it.
“This is particularly true in constitutional cases. Many of our fundamental constitutional guarantees are designed to be countermajoritarian, and many have been vindicated by litigants who are deeply unpopular, but still have a right to march through Skokie, Ill., to confront witnesses against them—or to defend themselves from violence.”
They added that their decision to leave Kirkland & Ellis was more about principle than the issues in the case.
“We would make the same choice for any of our clients. The scope of the Second Amendment and the plague of gun violence are more controversial than the Federal Arbitration Act or even religious speech,” they said.
“But that makes resisting the pressure to drop an unpopular client all the more crucial. The problems posed by the spate of recent violent gun crimes are real. But the solution isn’t to fire clients who have just vindicated a fundamental constitutional right.
“We are sticking with our clients.”