HRC Goes After Lawyer Cleta Mitchell by Way of Her Law Firm, Foley & Lardner

Posted by Chris Geidner
November 8, 2011 4:05 PM |

The Human Rights Campaign often finds itself the subject of criticism for not taking aggressive action against politicians and others who are pro-LGBT in some respects but not in others.

Thumbnail image for Screen shot 2011-08-27 at 12.17.37 PM.pngToday, however, HRC took a strong stand, with president Joe Solmonese striking out at Foley & Lardner LLP, the law firm where Cleta Mitchell is a partner. Mitchell recently registered as a lobbyist for the National Organization for Marriage in Minnesota, where a marriage constitutional amendment will be on the ballot in 2012.

Solmonese writes:

We fully recognize that the legal profession has the duty to represent unpopular clients and take on controversial cases, particularly in defending individuals or organizations charged with violating the law and in protecting civil liberties. The firm's involvement, however, has gone well beyond simple legal representation of an unpopular client. In 2009, our lawyers witnessed Ms. Mitchell leading and counseling anti-LGBT community members at a public D.C. hearing on testimony that was deeply hurtful towards our community. Now, Ms. Mitchell is a registered lobbyist on behalf of NOM in Minnesota, which goes well beyond any professional or ethical obligations of legal representation. Moreover, the firm has established a clear pattern of knowingly taking on anti-LGBT organizations as clients, even after we and others in the community expressed concerns.

HRC takes seriously our role as the nation's leading organization advocating for LGBT equality. We have an obligation to express publicly our deep concern and frustration with your firm's continued legal and advocacy efforts on behalf of organizations devoted exclusively to furthering anti-LGBT bigotry. This commitment on your part marks a continued and significant reversal from Foley & Lardner's past practices of supporting LGBT equality.

Solmonese writes that it will be downgrading Foley & Lardner to a 60 score on the 2012 Corporate Equality Index, "one of lowest scores earned by an Am Law 200 law firm in the upcoming report." He added that HRC would be advising "corporate counsel and law students" of the firm's "continued representation of anti-LGBT organizations and its current legislative advocacy on behalf of NOM."

In addition to her work in 2009 and 2010 to try and stop marriage equality in the District, Mitchell earlier this year had been one of the voices pushing to keep GOProud out of CPAC, the annual conservative political gathering. The effort prompted GOProud chairman Chris Barron to tell Metro Weekly that Mitchell was a "nasty bigot" -- words he later said he regretted using.

Read Solmonese's letter to Foley & Lardner: JoeSolmonese_letter_FoleyAndLardner_Nov2011.pdf

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