The lawyers who won a major Second Amendment case before the U.S. Supreme Court this week got even less than a pat on the back from the white-shoe law firm they work for – they were forced to quit.
Paul Clement and Erin Murphy, the lawyers who successfully argued against New York’s law restricting conceal-carry gun permits, were told by Kirkland & Ellis they had to stop representing Second Amendment plaintiffs or find another firm. In a Wall Street Journal article, the duo explained how their celebration was cut short.
“Having just secured a landmark decision vindicating our clients’ constitutional Second Amendment rights in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, we were presented with a stark choice—withdraw from representing them or withdraw from the firm,” they wrote. “There was only one choice: We couldn’t abandon our clients simply because their positions are unpopular in some circles.”
Congratulations!? Lawyers Paul Clement and Erin Murphy, who won Thursday's concealed-weapons case, leave Kirkland & Ellis after firm said it wouldn’t take any more Second Amendment clients https://t.co/shGkbI1yQL via @WSJ
— Jess Bravin (@JessBravin) June 24, 2022
The pair struck a blow for gun rights when the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on Thursday that New York’s restrictions on gun permits violated the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. The decision was widely viewed as the widest expansion of gun rights in more than a decade, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The case revolved around a 1911 New York state law that made the right to a concealed carry permit contingent on demonstrating “good moral character” and “proper cause.” In the majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that New Yorkers could not be required to show why they must demonstrate a need to exercise a Constitutional right.
“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need,” Thomas wrote. “That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.”
The decision has implications for at least eight other so-called “may issue” states, where bureaucrats have the final say in whether a citizen merits a permit. In New York, the law was used to render concealed carry handgun permits nearly impossible to obtain.
Clement, who served as the U.S. solicitor general under President George W. Bush, and Murphy, also an experienced appellate attorney, were partners in the firm. But they wrote that they were resigned to leaving after being told they can’t take on Second Amendment cases.
“This isn’t the first time we have left a firm to stick by a client,” they wrote. “What makes this circumstance different is that the firm approved our representation of these clients years ago, and dropping them would cost the clients years of institutional memory. More remarkable still, in one of the cases we were asked to drop, we prevailed in the Supreme Court on Thursday.”