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Tag Archives: John Boehner

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.”

House Republicans begin DOMA defense, seek cost reimbursement from DOJ (access required)

Clement

Clement

After hiring former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, House Republicans officially entered the ongoing legal battle yesterday with a motion to intervene in a New York-based challenge to the law.

As you may recall, in February Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Obama administration would no longer defend the law in federal court, spurring House Speaker John Boehner to announce that the House would defend the law. Since no Democratic members of the House have joined the effort, it is more accurate to say House Republicans are defending the law, points out SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston. The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group convened by Boehner voted to allow the House to move forward with the law’s legal defense.

Boehner

Boehner

In addition to yesterday’s legal filing, Boehner also sent a letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi informing her of his intent to seek reimbursement from the Department of Justice for the costs of defending the law.

“Obviously, DOJ’s decision results in DOJ no longer needing the funds it would have otherwise expended defending the constitutionality of DOMA,” the letter states.  “It is my intent that those funds be diverted to the House for reimbursement of any costs incurred by and associated with the House, and not DOJ, defending DOMA.”

Boehner said he has “directed House Counsel and House Administration Committee to assure that sufficient resources and associated expertise, including outside counsel, are available for appropriately defending the federal statute that the Attorney General refuses to defend.”

Boehner: House lawyers will defend DOMA (access required)

Just days after Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Congress informing lawmakers that the Justice Department will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act – which denies federal benefits to same-sex married couples – House Speaker John Boehner announced that the House will send its own lawyers to defend the law in federal court.

The Ohio Republican will convene a House panel called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group that will have the power to order the House general counsel’s office to bring legal action on behalf of the House.

In announcing the move, Boehner chided President Obama for his decision to stop defending the law.

“It is regrettable that the Obama Administration has opened this divisive issue at a time when Americans want their leaders to focus on jobs and the challenges facing our economy” Boehner said in a statement Friday. “The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts — not by the president unilaterally — and this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution.”

Boehner’s staffers get Supreme swearing in rite (access required)

The new 112th Congress kicks off its session today, and lawmakers – including new House Speaker John Boehner – will be sworn in. But it was Boehner’s staffers who got a Supreme treat yesterday.

All federal employees must take a constitutional oath. But yesterday Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. administered that oath to members of Boehner’s congressional staff during a closed-door ceremony in the congressman’s office.

The move was unusual – most staffers simply sign an oath without any pomp or circumstance, reports The New York Times‘ The Caucus blog. But the move isn’t unprecedented.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg told the Times that Roberts has presided over a number of oath ceremonies, including those for the architect of the Capitol, board members at the Legal Services Corporation and the new ambassador to Australia.

Roberts has lot of experience administering oaths – remember that he did it twice for President Barack Obama.