While he believes the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, Attorney General Eric Holder is defending former Solicitor General Paul Clement’s decision to leave a prominent law firm over its decision to abandon its agreement to defend the statute in court on behalf of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“Paul Clement’s a great lawyer. He’s done a lot of great things for this nation,” Holder said in remarks to reporters today, as reported by NPR’s Carrie Johnson. “I think he was doing that which lawyers do when we are at our best.”
It was Holder’s decision to no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA that set in motion the chain of events that ultimately led to Clement’s involvement in the case. House Republicans were incensed by Holder’s decision and decided that the House would defend the law in court, hiring Clement to handle the defense.
Holder compared the criticism of Clement over his decision to defend DOMA to criticism of Justice Department lawyers who had defended Guantanamo Bay detainees in habeas cases while in private practice.
“The people who criticized our people here at the Justice Department were wrong then, as are people who criticized Paul Clement for taking the representation that is going to continue,” Holder said, according to the National Law Journal’s Mike Scarcella.
“I’m not casting blame,” Holder said. “I think those who were critical of him for taking that representation — that criticism is very misplaced.”