Even for a lawyer with a career as storied as Theodore Olson’s, this is shaping up to be a landmark year. Olson, a partner in the DC office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, has been at the center of two of the most talked-about legal matters of the new decade. And each has a very different group of supporters.
“People hate me for one and love me for the other—or vice versa,” he says.
Olson, one of the nation’s most prominent Republican lawyers, is talking about the recent decision handed down by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission and the trial in California federal court over Proposition 8, the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
In the first case, Olson advocated for Citizens United, a conservative organization, which won its argument that a restriction on corporate political spending was a violation of the First Amendment. The ruling wasn’t supported by any members of the Court’s liberal wing, and it pushed President Obama to take a dig at the high court during his State of the Union address.
However, the matter Olson is proudest of is his work on the Prop 8 case: “I can’t imagine a more gratifying professional experience than the trial of that case.”
Olson’s representation—alongside much more liberal New York lawyer David Boies—of gay couples who want full marriage equality has shocked many of his right-leaning friends. The Prop 8 trial lasted three weeks earlier this year, and closing arguments are expected in March.
Says Olson: “The impact and significance of the ultimate outcome could change the lives of literally millions of people.”