October 27, 2009 8:36AM

Defending Civil Rights and Suing Rogue Prosecutors Is Left‐​Wing Lawyering?

The National Law Journal and the Wall Street Journal Law Blog note an apparent legal curiosity: Paul Clement, superstar head of King & Spaulding’s appellate group and Bush‐​administration solicitor general, now “flirts with liberalism” and has “embrace[d] left‐​leaning causes” to grow his practice. Is this another case of a conservative lawyer “growing” in office or “drifting” to the left, seduced by the cocktail parties and press attention of the Washington elite?

Hardly. The two cases that prompted this gnashing of teeth (or cautious optimism, depending on where the commentator resides on the political spectrum) are Perdue v. Kenny A. and Pottowattamie County v. McGhee. In Kenny A., Clement represented a group of public interest attorneys who won a big case on behalf of mistreated foster children and argued that they should be entitled to the enhanced fees the trial court awarded them for exceptional performance. In McGhee, Clement’s clients are two men who were framed by overzealous prosecutors and served 25 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit — the convictions for which were based on the prosecutors’ fabricated evidence.

To say that these are left‐​wing positions is to consider the Left to be the only possible champion of justice and constitutional rights, and to paint the non‐​Left as standing for limitless, unaccountable governmental power. Neither of these positions is accurate, to say the least. If anything, Clement’s positions are solidly libertarian.

Indeed, Cato filed briefs in both cases, and I signed both of them. You can read our brief in Kenny A. here and in McGhee here — Clement actually called me to make sure Cato got involved in this one — and you can read my blog posts about the cases here and here, respectively.

In short, if Paul Clement has gone red, well then so have I — and trust me, there won’t be any kumbaya confabs at my place any time soon. My car’s new vanity plate does say FED 51, however — short for Federalist 51 — so feel free to call me out for flirtations with Madisonian political theory.

H/T: Manny Klausner