|42nd Solicitor General of the United States|
June 11, 2001 – July 10, 2004
|President||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Seth P. Waxman|
|Succeeded by||Paul Clement|
|United States Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel|
|Preceded by||John Harmon|
|Succeeded by||Charles Cooper|
Theodore Bevry Olson
September 11, 1940
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
(m. 1964; div. 1987)
(m. 1989; div. 1991)
(m. 1996; died 2001)
Lady Evelyn Booth
|Education||University of the Pacific (BA)|
University of California, Berkeley (JD)
Theodore Bevry Olson (born September 11, 1940) is an American lawyer, practicing at the Washington, D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Olson served as United States Solicitor General (2001–2004) under President George W. Bush.
Theodore Olson was born in Chicago, the son of Yvonne Lucy (Bevry) and Lester W. Olson. He grew up in Mountain View, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. He attended Los Altos High School where he graduated in 1958. In 1962, Olson graduated cum laude from the University of the Pacific with a degree in communications and history where he was a charter member of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity chapter. He earned his J.D. degree from the UC Berkeley School of Law in 1965. At Berkeley, Olson served as a contributor to the California Law Review and was a member of Order of the Coif.
Early legal career: 1965 to 2000
From 1981 to 1984, Olson served as an Assistant Attorney General (Office of Legal Counsel) in the Reagan administration. While serving in the Reagan administration, Olson was Legal Counsel to President Reagan during the Iran-Contra Affair's investigation phase. Olson was also the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel when then President Ronald Reagan ordered the Administrator of the EPA to withhold the documents on the ground that they contained "enforcement sensitive information." This led to an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee that later produced a report suggesting Olson had given false and misleading testimony before a House subcommittee during the investigation. The Judiciary Committee forwarded a copy of the report to the Attorney General, requesting the appointment of an independent counsel investigation.
Olson argued that the Independent Counsel took executive powers away from the office of the President of the United States and created a hybrid "fourth branch" of government that was ultimately answerable to no one. He argued that the broad powers of the Independent Counsel could be easily abused or corrupted by partisanship. In the Supreme Court Case Morrison v. Olson, the Court disagreed with Olson and found in favor of the Plaintiff and independent counsel Alexia Morrison.
He returned to private law practice as a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of his firm, Gibson Dunn.
A high-profile client in the 1980s was Jonathan Pollard, who had been convicted of selling government secrets to Israel. Olson handled the appeal to United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Olson argued the life sentence Pollard received was in violation of the plea bargain agreement, which had specifically excluded a life sentence. Olson also argued that the violation of the plea bargain was grounds for a mistrial. The Court of Appeals ruled (2‑1) that no grounds for mistrial existed.
Olson argued a dozen cases before the Supreme Court prior to becoming Solicitor General. In one case, he argued against federal sentencing guidelines; and, in a case in New York state, he defended a member of the press who had first leaked the Anita Hill story. Olson successfully represented presidential candidate George W. Bush in the Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore, which effectively ended the recount of the contested 2000 Presidential election.
Later legal career: 2001 to present
Olson was nominated for the office of Solicitor General by President Bush on February 14, 2001. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 24, 2001, and took office on June 11, 2001. In 2002, Olson argued for the federal government in the Supreme Court case Christopher v. Harbury (536 U.S. 403). Olson maintained that the government had an inherent right to lie: “There are lots of different situations where the government quite legitimately may have reasons to give false information out.” In July 2004, Olson retired as Solicitor General and returned to private practice at the Washington office of Gibson Dunn.
In 2006, Olson represented a defendant journalist in the civil case filed by Wen Ho Lee and pursued the appeal to the Supreme Court. Lee sued the federal government to discover which public officials had named him as a suspect to journalists before he had been charged. Olson wrote a brief on behalf of one of the journalists involved in the case, saying that journalists should not have to identify confidential sources, even if subpoenaed by a court. In 2011, Olson represented the National Football League Players Association in the 2011 NFL lockout.
In 2009, he joined together with President Clinton's former attorney David Boies, who was also his opposing counsel in Bush v. Gore, to bring a federal lawsuit, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, challenging Proposition 8, a California state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. His work on the lawsuit earned him a place among the Time 100's greatest thinkers. In 2011, Olson and David Boies were awarded the ABA Medal, the highest award of the American Bar Association. In 2014, Olson received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement presented by Awards Council member Brendan V. Sullivan, Jr.
More recently, Olson represented a group of billboard advertisers in a lawsuit against the City of San Francisco. The group challenged a city law requiring soda companies to include in their advertisements warnings that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with serious health risks like diabetes. The suit claimed that the law is an unconstitutional restriction on commercial speech. In September 2017, a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Olson and provisionally barred the city's mandated warnings.
In November 2019, Olson represented the DACA recipients in the Supreme court case Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California. On June 18, the Supreme Court upheld the program due to the failure of the Trump Administration to legally follow the Administrative Procedure Act while rescinding DACA.
Olson has been married four times. His first marriage was to Karen Beatie whom he met in college at the University of the Pacific. Olson's second wife was Jolie Ann Bales, an attorney and a liberal Democrat. Olson's third wife, Barbara Kay Olson (née Bracher), an attorney and conservative commentator, was a passenger aboard the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into a sector of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Her original plan was to fly to California on September 10, but she delayed her departure until the next morning so she could wake up with her husband on his birthday. Before she died, she called her husband to warn him about the flight. Some of the phone call was recorded and can still be heard today. On October 21, 2006, Olson married Lady Booth, a tax attorney from Kentucky and a lifelong Democrat.
Olson was a founding member of the Federalist Society. He has served on the board of directors of American Spectator magazine. Olson was a prominent critic of Bill Clinton's presidency, and he helped prepare the attorneys of Paula Jones prior to their Supreme Court appearance. Olson served Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign as judicial committee chairman. In 2012 he participated in Paul Ryan's preparation for the Vice Presidential debate, portraying Joe Biden. He is one of the outspoken advocates for gay marriage in the Republican Party.
Executive appointment speculation
Prior to President Bush's nomination of D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge John G. Roberts, Olson was considered a potential nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States to fill Sandra Day O'Connor's post. Following the withdrawal of Harriet Miers' nomination for that post, and prior to the nomination of Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Samuel Alito, Olson's name was again mentioned as a possible nominee.
In September 2007, Olson was considered by the Bush administration for the post of Attorney General to succeed Alberto Gonzales. The Democrats, however, were so vehemently opposed that Bush nominated Michael Mukasey instead.
- Olson, Theodore B.; Boies, David (June 17, 2014). Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality. Penguin. ISBN 9780698135369 – via Google Books.
- Lewis, Neil A. (February 15, 2001). "Man in the News: Prize Job for a Bush Rescuer, Theodore Bevry Olson". The New York Times.
- "StackPath". fedsoc.org. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
- "Ted Olson". Biography. A&E Television Networks. Retrieved October 11, 2012.
- Tapper, Jake (November 19, 2000). "Boies vs. Olson: A Look at the Two Legal Titans Behind the Gore and Bush Teams". Salon. Retrieved April 27, 2009.
- "Solicitor General: Theodore B. Olson". www.justice.gov. October 23, 2014. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
- Fisher, Louis (January 1, 1989). "Congressional access to executive branch information: Lessons from Iran-Contra". Government Information Quarterly. 6 (4): 383–394. doi:10.1016/0740-624X(89)90005-1. ISSN 0740-624X.
- "oyez html5 player". September 24, 2015. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
- Conason, Bill (February 6, 2001). "Ted Olson? You've Got to Be Kidding: How Does Bush Expect to 'Raise the Tone' in Washington by Nominating a Right-Wing Celebrity and Kenneth Starr Pal as Solicitor General?". Salon. Archived from the original on May 30, 2009. Retrieved April 27, 2009.
- "Still Searching". The Texas Observer. June 7, 2002. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
- Greenhouse, Linda (March 19, 2002). "Widow Argues for Right to Sue Officials (Published 2002)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
- "Supreme Court: Harbury Case". NPR.org. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
- Mears, Bill (May 22, 2006). "Deal in Wen Ho Lee Case May Be Imminent". CNN. Retrieved November 7, 2008.
- Kuriloff, Aaron (May 6, 2011). "Players' Lawyer Ted Olson Calls NFL Lockout Abuse of Monopoly". Bloomberg News. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
- Breer, Albert (June 3, 2011). "NFL, players state lockout cases; court to rule in 'due course'". NFL.com. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
- Williams, Carol J. (May 26, 2009). "Bush vs. Gore Rivals Challenge Prop. 8 in Federal Court". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 26, 2009.
- Klein, Joe (April 29, 2010). "David Boies and Theodore Olson". The 2010 Time 100. Time. Archived from the original on May 2, 2010. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
- Gaul, Patricia. "David Boies, Theodore B. Olson to Receive American Bar Association Medal for 2011" (Press release). American Bar Association. Archived from the original on March 20, 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
- "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
- "2014 Summit Highlights Photo".
Eminent defense counsels and Academy members Brendan Sullivan, David Boies, Ted Olson and Barry Scheck.
- Dolan, Maura; Kim, Victoria (February 18, 2016). "Apple-FBI fight over iPhone encryption pits privacy against national security". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
- "Ted Olson Sees Glimmer of Hope For Tom Brady Appeal". CBS. May 25, 2016. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
- Orr, Conor (July 15, 2016). "Tom Brady won't further pursue suspension appeal". National Football League. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
- Reyes, Lorenzo (July 15, 2016). "Tom Brady announces he won't fight Deflategate suspension further in court". USA Today. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
- "Star GOP lawyer Theodore B. Olson declines offer to join Trump legal team". Washington Post.
- Liptak, Adam (September 26, 2019). "Theodore Olson, Conservative Stalwart, to Represent 'Dreamers' in Supreme Court". New York Times.
- Grove, Lloyd (June 27, 2015). "The Surprising Republican Hero Of Same-Sex Marriage". Retrieved August 15, 2019.
- Argetsinger, Amy & Roberts, Roxanne (October 22, 2006). "Napa Nuptials for Olson and His Lady". The Reliable Source. The Washington Post. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
- "What Barbara Olson Knew" (YouTube). CNN. April 7, 2008.
- drjamesfetzer (January 4, 2010). "Pentagon Explosion, No Flight 77: TED OLSON on Barbara: "Its impossible to think of her as Gone"" – via YouTube.
- 9/11 Commission. "The 9/11 Commission Report" (PDF).
- Parker, Ashley (August 18, 2010). "When Opposites Influence". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2010.
- Oliphant, James (September 6, 2007). "Giuliani Hitches Star to Conservative Legal Group". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 27, 2008.
- Broder, Jonathan (April 24, 1998). "American Spectator Audit: Is the Fox Guarding the Henhouse?". Salon. Archived from the original on October 20, 2007. Retrieved April 27, 2009.
- Sonmez, Felicia (September 15, 2012). "Paul Ryan Taps Ted Olson to Play Biden in Debate Prep". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- Totenberg, Nina (December 6, 2010). "Ted Olson, Gay Marriage's Unlikely Legal Warrior". NPR.
- "Behind the Slander: Olson Played Hardball – But So Did the Dems". U-T San Diego. September 18, 2007. Retrieved September 18, 2007.
- Olson, Theodore B. (2006). The Senate Confirmation Process: Advise and Consent, or Search and Destroy?. Washington, D.C.: National Legal Center for the Public Interest. OCLC 70790172.
- Boies, David & Olson, Theodore B. (2014). Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality. New York: Viking. ISBN 9780670015962.
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