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Tag Archives: Defense of Marriage Act

Lawmaker blasts House’s hefty DOMA legal defense tab

Most BigLaw clients would not be surprised by a $1.5 million legal tab. But when that tab is incurred by the House’s defense of the Defense of Marriage Act – and is thus charged to taxpayers – people take notice.

Rep. Honda

As did Rep. Mike Honda, who called the legal bill a “irresponsible, backdoor use of taxpayer money” according to U.S. News and World Report (HT: WSJ’s Law Blog). The California Democrat is calling for a hearing on the issue after House Republicans agreed to increase the pay cap for Bancroft partner Paul Clement’s work on the case.

As a quick recap, after the Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would no longer defend the law, House Speaker John Boehner announced that the House would send its own counsel to defend the law in federal court.

Clement

And not just any counsel. House GOP lawmakers tapped former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement – at the time a partner at King & Spalding – to defend the constitutionality of the law.

But then King & Spalding pulled out, causing Clement to abruptly resign the firm in protest and continue the defense of the law with Bancroft.

Now, U.S. News reports, the firm’s legal fees were initially capped at $500,000, but that amount was increased to $750,000. But that “cap may be raised from time to time up to, but not exceeding $1.5 million, upon written notice of the General Counsel to the Contractor.”

That does not make Honda happy. “How long are we going to let this Republican political exercise go on, and at what cost to the American tax payers?” he told U.S. News.

But Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, defended House Republicans’ actions, saying they are defending the law is because “the Justice Department chose to shirk its constitutional duty to do so.”

Boehner no fan of trial lawyers, unless he’s hiring them (access required)

Boehner

In his political messages, House Speaker John Boehner hasn’t shown a lot of love to trial lawyers. Boehner has perennially joined his Republican colleagues in supporting tort reform measures they say will “rein in junk lawsuits.”

Yet in practice, Boehner seems to be a big fan of litigation according to a report by Politico. Boehner has used the court system as an essential tool in a number of political battles over his career, and two of those battles are primed to land before the Supreme Court.

As readers know, Boehner spearheaded the effort of House Republicans to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court after the Obama administration announced that the Department of Justice would no longer do so. Boehner hired outside lawyers to handle the defense (which led to another high-profile legal battle). He then asked for the Justice Department to pay the legal bill.

Boehner also filed legal briefs in the Florida lawsuit challenging constitutionality of last year’s health reform law. Both the health care law challenge and the DOMA case are expected to go to the Supreme Court within the next couple of years.

Boehner has long showed a willingness to take political battles to court – and an ability to win. Following an ethics investigation into then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, Boehner successfully sued Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott and won a $1.2 million judgment.

Supporters say Boehner is simply ensuring proper constitutional procedure.

“He takes very seriously his role under the Constitution and the need to assure that the checks and balances work properly,” Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network, which filed the health care challenge on Boehner’s behalf, told Politico. “He is making the point that the constitutional limits were exceeded. That’s why we have judicial review.”

A top Democratic staffer stopped short of labeling Boehner’s legal battles hypocritical – noting that “members of Congress have a duty to evaluate the constitutionality of laws that they pass.” Still, the staffer said, “people complain only when their ox is being gored.”