You may recall that I wrote the other day about former Bush appointee, and DOMA defending lawyer to the Republicans, Paul Clement who compared defending DOMA to defending Gitmo detainees. No, in fact what Paul Clement is doing is the moral, and legal, equivalent of defending the law taking rights away from Gitmo detainees. But who’s counting?
What struck me in the previous interview with Clement was his pique at being characterized as an arch-homophobe simply because he’s promoting and defending arch-homophobia. According to Clement, you can’t judge his heart by simply looking at a single client:
“Look, I’m a Republican,” said Clement. “But it certainly doesn’t define the kinds of cases I take on. You read about one big case and you think, That must be the kind of lawyer he is. That’s not what it’s about. The specialty an appellate lawyer provides is pitching legal cases to appellate judges.
At the time, I noted that this wasn’t just one case. Clement was also defending South Carolina’s racist anti-black voter ID law and Arizona’s racist anti-Latino immigration law, in addition to defending the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act.
And now the other shoe drops (well, the fourth shoe, in Clement’s case).
Guess who’s going before the Supreme Court trying to get Health Care Reform killed? None of other than Paul Clement:
[W]hen 26 states decided to challenge the health-care law passed by Congress and championed by President Obama, which mandates coverage for all Americans, they hired Clement, who frequently bills at about $1,000 an hour but is handling the case for a capped fee of $250,000.
So to recap, Paul Clement is getting rich off of helping Republicans disadvantage gays, Latinos and blacks, and helping Republicans take health care away from millions of Americans. But he’s not a bad guy, really, because it’s just one case. Except that now it’s four different cases.
Oops, make that five:
In January, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled against one of his clients, an offshore oil exploration and drilling company. Clement had argued that the widow of a company employee, who generally had worked on an offshore platform but who died in an accident at an onshore facility, was not entitled to benefits under a federal statute which, Clement contended, limited the benefits to those working exclusively offshore.
Arguing on behalf of a rich company that a widow shouldn’t receive benefits. Anyone else see a pattern here? Here’s my favorite Clement line:
[If] you take a snapshot of my legal position in this particular case or that case and associate it with the policy issue, well, you know, depending on the case, you’re going to think, ‘Wow, you’re really a crazy conservative’ or ‘You’re a crazy liberal.’ ”
Crazy liberal? Where? The man worked for John Ashcroft.
Even though Clement claims that his choice of cases is not a window into his soul, how many pro-gay, pro-civil rights, and pro-health care reform cases is he working on right now? Contrast this to Clement’s former boss in the Bush administration, Ted Olson, who is making waves and history by fighting Prop 8 in court.
If Paul Clement’s cases don’t show a mean and nasty ideological bent, then why do we keep hearing about cases in which Clement is defending the mean and the nasty? Lawyers choose their cases. And they, like the rest of us, are self-defined by their choices.
To paraphrase J.K. Rowling, it is our choices, Mr. Clement, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.