05/03/2011 09:55 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

King & Spalding Hit From Both Sides Over Defense Of Marriage Act

NEW YORK, May 2 (Reuters Legal) - King & Spalding first took heat from liberals for its work on the gay marriage issue. Now the law firm is losing some of its conservative clients.

The National Rifle Association on Monday said it will no longer use King & Spalding as its outside counsel after the firm pulled out from defending the Defense of Marriage Act.

That followed an attack last week by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, a Republican, who called King & Spalding's decision an "obsequious act of weakness."

Just a few weeks ago, King & Spalding, one of the top law firms in the country, came under pressure from liberal groups such as the Human Rights Campaign for agreeing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of Republican leaders.

On April 25, King & Spalding said it no longer would defend the law, which prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

Paul Clement, a partner at King & Spalding and a former U.S. Solictor General, then left the firm to keep working on the case.

In a letter to King & Spalding on Monday, the National Rifle Association said its decision to drop the firm was not related to any position on the Defense of Marriage Act but rather to the law firm's decision to drop a client.

"We believe King & Spalding's decision is indefensible and raises serious concerns about its ability to be a reliable and effective advocate for any client facing potentially controversial litigation," the letter said.

The letter was signed by David Lehman, deputy executive director and general counsel of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action.

The law firm's services, and specifically those of Clement, had been "outstanding" prior to the Defenses of Marriage Act matter, Lehman wrote.

Last year, Clement represented the NRA before the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark case that determined that the right to bear arms applies to states as well as to individuals.

Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli, in his letter to King & Spalding, separately said that his office could not leave legal matters "in the hands of a law firm of such weakness."

It was unclear how much work King & Spalding performed for his office.

King & Spalding declined to comment on losing the NRA and the Virginia Attorney General as clients.

Clement was U.S. Solicitor General from 2005 to 2008 during the administration of President George W. Bush and was an attorney at King & Spalding before that.

His clients at King & Spalding included United Parcel Service Co, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Ernst & Young LLP, Coca-Cola Co, L-3 Communications Corp, and Home Depot USA, Inc., according to court dockets.

(Reporting by Leigh Jones of Reuters Legal. Editing by Peter Bohan)

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