NY Sun Editors on Paul Clement's Courage


The Sun mistakes marriage for an unpopular issue generally, but then they are a Manhattan paper; otherwise a lovely defense of legal honor:

It happens that we’d been thinking about the courage of a certain kind of lawyer who sticks with an unpopular client even when attempts are made to drive him off a case. For we’d just gone to see Robert Redford’s powerful movie called “The Conspirator,” about Mary Surrat, who went to the gallows for her role in the plot to assassinate President Lincoln. It centers on her lawyer, Frederick Aikin. He was reluctant to take her case, but took it on principle. He was reviled for doing so, but he stuck with the case and came to have doubts about her guilt. When she was hung, he left the bar altogether and became the founding managing editor of the Washington Post.

That is the kind of grit being shown by Paul Clement, the former solicitor general of the United States who just quit the prestigious law firm of King & Spalding to stick with his promise to represent the House of Representatives in its fight with the government over the Defense of Marriage Act...

The principle of sticking by an unpopular client is as old as our republic, whose second president, John Adams, when he was a young lawyer, won the acquittal of Captain Preston and most of his fellow redcoats in the killings that became known as the Boston Massacre. Most recently, some lawyers representing detainees at Guantanamo had come under criticism for being over-zealous in their defense. The lawyers were defended by President Bush’s last attorney general, Michael Mukasey, in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. The toll taken on lawyers who stick by unpopular clients is a remarkable thing, and Mr. Redford’s movie about Mary Surrat’s case gives a powerful insight. It would be fun to see who plays the part of Paul Clement should, a generation from now, Hollywood make an attempt to capture his courage.