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posted Friday, August 12, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 32
Prop 8 attorneys get ABA award
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Prop 8 attorneys get ABA award

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

David Boies and Theodore Olson - attorneys in the lawsuit that overturned California's Prop 8 - were awarded the American Bar Association Medal on August 8.

The award is the ABA's highest honor, and is awarded only in years when the ABA believes a nominee has offered really exceptional service to the court system and the legal profession.

Recent recipients have included Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, philanthropist lawyer William Gates, Sr., former international war crimes judge Patricia Wald, and civil rights lawyer John Pickering.

ABA President Stephen Zack said the pair was being honored both for their work on Perry v. Schwarzenegger, against Prop 8, and for other services to the U.S. court system.

'It's an honor to present the ABA Medal to David and Ted,' Zack said in his awards speech. 'Our courts are being starved for lack of funding. Through their leadership on the Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System, David and Ted have effectively worked to protect the third co-equal branch of government and our constitutional democracy.'

'Both David and Ted have had storied legal careers,' Zack continued, 'but together they can only be described as a force of nature. They have proven they are capable of righting wrongs wherever they exist - and they proved it again in their victory in California in Proposition 8. The ABA medal is for the first time being given to two individuals because they stand for one principle.'

Almost a year to the day before they received the ABA award, Boies and Olson won a stunning court victory when U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Prop 8 was unconstitutional.

'Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis,' Walker said in his August 4, 2010, opinion.

Boies and Olson are unlikely allies.

In 2009, Boies represented Vice President Al Gore in Bush v. Gore, in which the U.S. Supreme Court awarded the electoral votes of Florida - and therefore the presidency of the United States - to George W. Bush.

Olson represented Bush.

The two were brought together for the Prop 8 lawsuit by AFER (Americans for Equal Rights).

They were selected as two of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in 2010, and Boies was recently named 'Lawyer of the Year' by the National Law Journal.

Boies and Olson have no time to rest on their laurels, however.

They will appear in California Supreme Court on September 6 to argue whether Prop 8's sponsors have standing to defend the initiative from their challenge.

Boies and Olson have argued that only elected officials of the state of California have standing to appeal Judge Walker's ruling, something Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris have declined to do.

The group which sponsored Prop 8, Protect Marriage, claims to have a right to appeal.

If the California Supreme Court agrees with Boies and Olson, Walker's ruling will stand without a challenge in a higher court.

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