• April 27, 2011

The Atlanta-based law firm of King & Spalding (K&S) seems to have alienated everyone this week on the left and on the right of the political spectrum, having taken on as a client — then firing —  the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives to defend against a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which is considered by progressives and liberals as nothing short of federally-created hate speech directed at the GLBT community.   Former Solicitor General Paul Clement walked away from K&S to which he had returned after his public service with the “GWB” administration, taking the case to another firm, saying, in part,  “I resign out of the firmly-held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client’s legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters.”

Closer to home, we note that Dan Gustafson and David Goodwin of Gustafson Gluek PLLC have taken on a controversial client of their own — Wallace Beaulieu — who was civilly committed for an indeterminate period of time in 2006 as a sexually dangerous person and a sexual psychopathic personality.  He brings a claim under the writ of habeas corpus seeking relief from his indefinite commitment, which was all but unchallengeable after his lawyer accidentally missed the deadline for his appeal.

The two circumstances are, of course, quite different…

As Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge Roger Klaphake concluded in his dissent of Beaulieu’s unsuccessful appeal of the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus,

Indeterminate civil commitment is clearly a restraint of a liberty interest, and this state’s civil commitment law grants appellant the right to representation ‘at any proceeding’ by ‘a vigorous advocate on behalf of the person.’ Minn. Stat. § 253B.07, subd. 2c. Through a failure of this statutory right, appellant has been cast into a no-man’s land of non-remedy and indefinite loss of liberty: he has had no direct appeal; his federal habeas petition has been denied because of a failure to exhaust state remedies; and we now are preparing to hold that the final remedy, a state habeas challenge, is also unavailable.

Gustafson Gluek has stepped up to represent a man who is unlikely to have much support and who faces indefinite incarceration, possibly due to incompetent lawyering that was supposed to have been undertaken on Beaulieu’s behalf.

Our society is, of course, split on the issue of gay marriage but no one can argue that K&S’ former client, the U.S. House of Representatives (nor social conservatives who support the DOMA) stand in the same shoes as Wallace Beaulieu.  Beaulieu may be the epitomy of a member of our society who, without a dedicated advocate, may be almost entirely cut off from all of humanity.

In short, kudos to the Gustafson Gluek lawyers for taking on the cause (though their prospects appear dim, and now rest with the Minnesota Supreme Court, having lost at the Court of Appeals).  (HERO)

King & Spalding’s “pro bono publico”  work, however (which means, “for the public good,” by the way, and for which it was reported the firm was to be paid $500,000 or $520/hour) does not appear really to have been truly “pro bono” in any sense.  The firm appears to have made a business decision and then decided it had miscalculated the costs/benefits of that decision and reversed itself.  (KNAVE)

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