Shirley Sherrod v. Breitbart Update: Big Law Fuels the Left
This column by ACRU Policy Board Member J. Christian Adams was published on July 24, 2014 on PJ Media.
Liberal groups already enjoy a tremendous structural advantage over conservative groups in terms of foundation support, bricks and mortars institutions and a steady pipeline of youngsters eager to shape mankind to their own image. There’s another often overlooked advantage enjoyed by the left: big law firms donating thousands and thousands of hours to help leftist causes far outside of the American mainstream.
There is no counterpart donation of time and money for conservative causes. Big Law’s ideological “lawfare” completes the architecture for attacks on election integrity laws, springing free Al-Qaeda terrorists and even suing conservative new media pioneers like Andrew Breitbart.
Legal work donated to these causes is called pro bono representation. Once upon a time, pro bono representation was provided to those who could not afford a lawyer after finding themselves in dire straits. Imagine a widow with children being sued by a landlord in an eviction lawsuit. Law firms, acting out of a sense of charity, might donate time to the widow to help her avoid eviction.
In the case of Andrew Breitbart, however, that script is flipped. Lawyers for the monster Big Law firm Kirkland and Ellis are representing Shirley Sherrod against Andrew Breitbart’s widow, for free. After Andrew died, these lawyers substituted Suzy Breitbart in a defamation case brought against Andrew.
Unlike the poor widow of yesteryear, the person receiving the free legal representation is Shirley Sherrod. Remember her? Sherrod is the former Department of Agriculture official caught on camera saying she denied a white farmer the full measure of benefits she could have given him (before later describing a moment of redemption when she rejected a racialist approach to her job). Unlike the poor widow, a farming collective associated with Sherrod’s family was the beneficiary of a multi-million dollar windfall settlement from the very same Agriculture Department.
In the same settlement, Sherrod and her family even received $150,000 for pain and suffering in the racial discrimination case against the USDA even when she admitted on camera she briefly intended to engage in racial discrimination against a white farmer while employed by the same USDA.
The irony apparently wasn’t shameful enough for Sherrrod’s lawyers to decline her case against Andrew Breitbart.
So enter Kirkland & Ellis lawyers Thomas Yannucci and Michael D. Jones. Sherrod’s morally bankrupt litigation against a widow by Kirkland and Ellis lawyers (working for free) isn’t the only example of pro bono work at the firm. A glance at the Kirkland and Ellis pro bono portfolio reveals a stark degree of ideological homogeneity.
No Tea Party groups abused by the IRS need apply for pro bono representation at Kirkland. None of the scores of conservative figures who are routinely defamed enjoy Kirkland lawyers representing them pro bono. (Note to Michelle Malkin, give Thomas Yannucci a call to see if all defamation cases are treated equally.)
Kirkland’s website says: “Kirkland lawyers can pursue pro bono matters dealing with a variety of issues such as immigration, homelessness, poverty, constitutional rights, election protection and family law.” It sounds nice, and to some it provides fresh air and credit for billable time, without bills.
This lifeline to sanity provides young lawyers an escape from what my attorney Robert Driscoll called Big Law’s typical “soul-deadening document review[s] for a brief, pro bono, taste of the adversarial process.” And for the lawyers, there is no professional downside to helping the left. From Kirkland’s website:
By treating pro bono work equivalently with billable client work in performance reviews and for compensation purposes, by insisting that our pro bono clients receive the same quality legal representation that our other clients enjoy, and by providing substantial financial support, Kirkland devotes considerable resources to supporting its attorneys’ pro bono efforts.
What this means is Kirkland uses fees from paying clients to subsidize (more often than not) the outside-the-mainstream institutional left. Here is a list of some of those fee paying Kirkland clients. These outside the mainstream efforts include:
—- Pro bono attacks on North Carolina’s election integrity laws, including voter ID. Thomas Yannucci, the same lawyer heading the complaint against Andrew Breitbart and now Andrew’s widow, is also on the march against North Carolina voter ID. Never mind that a vast majority of Americans support voter ID, including a majority of blacks and Democrats.
—- Helping illegal aliens stay in the United States.
—- Sending 120 salaried lawyers to help left-wing groups monitor polls on Election Day 2012. Kirkland coordinated election day activities with this far-left group. The same left-wing group, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, hassled Tea Party organizations on the eve of the election, ironically threatening them for similar plans to monitor the polls on election day. How far out of the mainstream is the organization? It actually asked the United Nations to monitor American elections.
—- Support for a hodgepodge of leftist groups like Centro Legal de La Raza, Public Advocates, Inc., the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU Foundation, and the Nature Conservancy.
Kirkland also publishes a pro bono “Corporate Social Responsibility” publication that approaches farce and leaves no doubt that pro bono includes lawfare for left-wing organizations and causes. In addition to heavy doses of “sustainability” and race “diversity” jargon, the document notes Kirkland aided an expansive front of left-of-center causes:
—- Aiding Darby v. Orr, gay marriage litigation in Illinois.
—- Donating 103,758 pro bono hours, which by the most conservative estimates means donating over $36,000,000 in firm salaries (which had to come from paying clients somewhere, didn’t they?).
—- Aiding the radical pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights that seeks to criminalize free speech by members of the Catholic Church through United Nations-sponsored treaty intervention. There’s no mention of Kirkland support of any pro-life organizations, or even health care services to women who seek to preserve life (like Tepeyac Family Center or the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center). When it comes to the life vs. abortion debate, Kirkland money seems to have taken one side.
—- Providing financial support to racialist groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), a group regularly on the side of opposing election integrity and making it easier for voter fraud to occur.
—- Giving financial support to the Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a group working to impose gun control in Washington D.C.
—- Aiding the anti-GOP and open borders group OneJustice. Kirkland lawyers have been working closely with OneJustice to help illegal aliens stay in the United States.
There are hundreds of conservative organizations who would appreciate pro bono legal assistance in litigation. There are hundreds more who would benefit from the largess of the Kirkland and Ellis Foundation. It seems Kirkland either doesn’t support these conservative causes, or is too embarrassed to market their support to the public.
In Kansas, election integrity champion Secretary of State Kris Kobach is facing a swarm of left-wing groups in litigation. What is the issue that has so much Big Law time devoted to Kansas? The simple fact that Kansas law requires those registering to vote to demonstrate they are actually United States citizens. Just peruse this eighteen page document listing all of the lawyers swarming against Kobach’s election integrity efforts passed by Democrats and Republicans in the Kansas legislature. This is what big law firms helping causes far from the mainstream look like. No lawfare for a far-left cause would be complete without a squad of Kirkland and Ellis lawyers. And naturally six separate lawyers at Kirkland have stepped up to represent the highly partisan League of Women Voters against Kobach: Susan Davies, Rachel Funk, Jonathan Janow, Bonnie Jarrett, Adam Teitcher and Michael Keats (who “regularly represents” the far-left Brennan Center for Justice).
But ideological orthodoxy in the pro bono practices of many law firms is nothing new.
Over at Eric Holder’s old firm, Covington and Burling, the proudest pro bono representation includes a gang of terrorists housed at GITMO. Once some of these lawyers wrapped up their representation of Al-Qaeda terrorists, they actually went to work at the Department of Justice, including one in the unit that handles GITMO detainees!
Next week, I will be appearing pursuant to a subpoena from Kirkland and Ellis to testify at a deposition in Shirley Sherrod’s lawsuit against Andrew Breitbart’s widow. My lawyer Robert Driscoll wrote a letter to a Kirkland lawyer that is worth a second (and third and fourth) read. I’ll be covering the deposition as well as the litigation throughout at PJ Media. Sherrod’s case, in my view, is an effort to chill free speech by the increasingly powerful conservative media. Here at PJ Media, it won’t work.