David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, co-chairs of the ABA Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System, were honored with the ABA’s highest award, the ABA Medal, by the House of Delegates today.
“David and I know we wouldn’t have received this award if not for the things we’ve been doing together,” Olson said in a brief acceptance speech to the House.
The duo worked together in their representation of two California couples who were precluded from marrying because of Proposition 8, which led to the elimination of rights of same-sex couples to marry in California. More recently, they worked together to help resolve the labor dispute between the NFL owners and players.
“This is a profession that faces many challenges,” Boies said. “The profession we inherited is not necessarily the profession we will pass on to the next generation unless we reinvigorate ourselves to try to protect the things that made our justice system great and our profession great.”
The two litigators have also opposed each other in some key cases, including Bush v. Gore after the 2000 presidential election.
“It is a lot more fun to have Olson on my side for a change,” Boies said.
They both called for more civility in the legal profession, a theme that ABA President Stephen N. Zack also sounded in a speech on Saturday to the ABA Opening Assembly.
“Respect and congeniality for one another, for courts, for the rule of law and the legal system, are required of us by the profession and our ethics and code of conduct. It is required of us to be civil to one another,” Olson said. “It’s also a smart thing to do.”
“Anger and hostility are among the most corrosive things we can experience, and it eats us up. Our profession is based upon honest and admirable advocacy.”
Boies, founder and chairman of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, is widely regarded as one of the nation’s pre-eminent trial lawyers. Olson is a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Washington, D.C., office and is one of the nation’s premier appellate and U.S. Supreme Court advocates. Time magazine put the duo on its 2010 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.