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David Boies Says He's Not Freaked Out By Trump Presidency. Really.

Vivia Chen

November 16, 2016


Litigator extraordinaire and one-time Good Wife star David Boies knows his share of muckety-mucks, so it shouldn't be surprising that he's crossed paths with Donald Trump. Just three days after the election, I attended a lunch at New York's Union Club where he was being honored by the New York chapter of the Boys Scouts. (Who knew Boies ws once a Boy Scout?) After the luncheon we chatted about the election, his prognosis for the Supreme Court and, of course, what he thinks of the real Donald.

This election was a stunner. How would you compare Trump's win to what happened in 2000 when you represented Al Gore against George W. Bush?
At the time we thought Gore and Bush were more alike than Clinton and Trump. This election is different because Trump won fair and square, whereas with Gore, the Supreme Court's decision resulted in the election of Bush.

I'm not sure the fact that Trump's presidency is legit is going to make people feel better. In fact, isn't that worse?
I think it's more frustrating. We felt that the stakes were high with this election, but we didn't know that during the 2000 election, and it turned out to be extraordinary high. So maybe we're overestimating how much is at stake now.

Sounds like you're trying to make people feel better. Do you have reasons for optimism about a Trump presidency?
I've known two Donald Trumps: the New York business man who gave my oldest son his first job and the very loving father. Our daughters were classmates at Penn. Then there's the second Trump: the campaigner who spoke in sound bites who displayed none of the intelligence and reflectiveness I've seen. And we might yet see a third Trump—the President. I'm hoping that he'll be more like the businessman I've known for 30 years.

Stop. Did you say a "reflective" Trump?
He's a showman but he's also a very savvy businessman, negotiator and builder. The question—and I don't know the answer—is to what extent is he going to feel he's captive to the political process and continue to engage in campaign rhetoric, and what extent he will revert to someone who puts people together. The businessman will reach out to people he disagreed with because he had to compromise on every deal he did. As a candidate, he crushed everyone who disagreed with him. I don't know what the Trump administration will be like, but if my only experience with him is only as a businessperson, I'd be optimistic. But if I only had the campaign to guide me, I'd be pessimistic.

Speaking of being pessimistic, women didn't rally around Hillary as we had expected, despite Trump's displays of sexism.
The good news is that a very large number of men and the majority of American people wanted a woman to be president. She won by over 1.5 million votes. The bad news is the electoral college and the fact that women are not as invested in their own progress as other groups that have suffered discrimination. As a matter of pride, women will say I won't vote for her because she's a woman. Because they're in the majority, it gives them a sense of complacency. They're also influenced by their environment—tradition, marriage, the views that their husbands have.

Let's turn to another cheery topic: the Supreme Court under Trump. Is there a chance that gay marriage rights will be chipped away?
No, I don't think that's going to change. It is so well accepted now that we can't go backward.

What about Roe v. Wade and other liberal causes? Surely, the court will take a sharp turn right.
I don't think [Roe v. Wade] will be overturned. . . It's always hard to predict how people appointed to the Supreme Court will develop over time. Like the presidency, it tends to bring out the best in people. The issue is not so much conservative or liberal judges but whether they're judicial activists. Some of the people on Trump's list respect judicial tradition.

Since you know Trump and seem friendly with him, is there any chance he'd bring you on to bridge the divide between him and liberals?
I don't see myself being asked. His first step should be to bring his party together. I think he ought to reach out to Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney. They lost but he can take advantage of their expertise.

Rumor has it that if Hillary had won, you'd be a key player in her administration. True?
I've been a Hillary supporter for a long time, since 2008. There was no discussion, and, as we saw, there's no point to do so before someone is elected. As for my taking a position, I think there are other people who are younger and more suited for the government.

You talk like you're going into the sunset, but there's no indication of that. Are you a bit sad that you won't get to end your career with a high government position?
The only position I would have been interested in would be Solicitor General—the one that Ted Olson held under Bush. If Gore had been elected, I would have been up for that. I feel I can contribute more doing the kind of cases I'm doing than holding a government position.



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Just taking exception to the reference to the term "judicial tradition." does he mean the tradition of being good judges, not political activists, or does he mean respect judicial precedent. Judges must follow precedent except in exceptional circumstances (such as Brown v. Bd of Ed.) Precedent is critical to our judicial system and the thing which keeps society in tact and predictable. For this reason, any person who is not a crook, who is a supreme court judge, is unlikely, highly unlikely, to overturn Roe v. Wade. Donald probably doesn't know this. He knew the gay marriage right could not properly be overturned. I think he is just playing campaigner in saying he doesn't know about abortion. The American people, mostly since Bush and Gore, are misinformed about the Supreme Court and the parties both take advantage of this. Judges are not to be political activists. Frankly any questions about political issues, like abortion, should not even be asked.This practice should be barred. But ultimately I agree with Mr. Boise that even people who look like they have a political agenda turn out to be ok judges not motivated in their decisions by politics. This is not the same as strict constitutionalits vs. more flexible socially responsive interpretations. That is a matter of legal difference of approach, not a political position.

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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