David Boies

One of the most remarked-upon aspects of the upcoming Supreme Court challenge to California’s gay-marriage ban is the odd couple leading the charge: Ted Olson and David Boies, the conservative and liberal superlawyers who squared off in 2000 in Bush v. Gore. Much less is known, however, about the old friendship between Olson and their opponent in this case, Charles Cooper, one of the many lawyers who helped Olson on Bush v. Gore. Cooper and Olson are both part of Washington’s tiny tribe of top-flight conservative litigators. Given their similar resumes, it is odd to find them on opposite sides of one of the most politically contentious Supreme Court cases of the 21st century. When Olson and Cooper face off before the court in late March, they’ll not only be debating gay rights, but the nature of conservatism itself.Cooper, known in Washington as “Chuck,” is from Alabama, and he’s best known for his starched French-cuffed shirts and genteel southern formality. His way of speaking, once described by Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory as “Victorian copy book prose,” can come across as impressive or a little unctuous, depending on the listener. If Olson, who also has a flair for oral arguments, is the lawyer who argues before the court this spring, he and Cooper will be evenly matched. 

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The Supreme Court has announced it will look at two gay marriage cases. Chris Matthews feels a thrill running up his leg. Shivers are probably the right response. But not necessarily the Matthews kind. The Court’s consideration of the sweeping challenge to California’s Proposition 8 raises the odds that the Supreme Court strategy may backfire—a risk that the modest challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act was likely to avoid.

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Lyle Denniston thinks so: From the moment nearly 15 months ago that two master legal tacticians, David Boies and Theodore Olson, launched the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, it was almost universally expected that it would become a historic Supreme Court test of gay marriage and the Constitution.   Now, perhaps for the first time, it seems realistic to suggest that this particular high-stakes battle may never get  much beyond California, especially in terms of its impact on the Constitution. That prospect came into view Thursday as U.S. District Judge Vaughn R.

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