As discussed in the first section of this post, the once sacrosanct principle that lawyers and law firms were ethically obligated to represent unpopular clients when they needed legal assistance has been deteriorating for the last decade, most recently under pressure from the self-righteous Left. Victims of the new progressive ethic that the ends justify the means, Lawyers and law firms have been threatened when they dared to align themselves with the opposition to progressive agenda items, because, in the universe to the port side of the ideological spectrum, those who don’t agree with the righteous are evil.
And it seems clear that few lawyers possess the courage and integrity to remains professional in their response to such threats.
After the King & Spalding embarrassment described in the earlier post, a similar episode occurred involving Obamacare. In House of Representatives v. Burwell, the House challenged the legality of subsidies the Obama administration paid to insurers. After the House authorized the suit, David Rivkin and his firm, Baker Hostetler, signed a contract to litigate the case.
Rivkin was warned by members of the firm that litigating a case in opposition to Obama could drive off potential clients and hurt Baker Hostetler’s credibility…that is, its bottom line. Within a week after the contract was announced, partners at the firm, which represents many hospital management firms and insurance companies, started to receive urgent calls from general counsels of clients in the health-care industry. The messages were identical: their companies could not continue to associate with Baker Hostetler if it litigated the House’s lawsuit. Many suspected that the Obama administration was behind the scenes, urging health-care companies to drop Baker Hostetler. The firm dropped the case.
The House, suddenly without legal representation, frantically sounded out many of the top firms in Washington without success. The House finally selected D.C. lawyer William Burck of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP. Three weeks later, without any explanation, Burck also withdrew from the case under pressure from his firm’s partners.