Theodore Olson

"Ted Olson" redirects here. For the baseball player, see Ted Olson (baseball).
Theodore Olson
42nd Solicitor General of the United States
In office
June 11, 2001  July 10, 2004
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Barbara Underwood (Acting)
Succeeded by Paul Clement
United States Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel
In office
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by John Harmon
Succeeded by Charles Cooper
Personal details
Born Theodore Bevry Olson
(1940-09-11) September 11, 1940
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Barbara Olson (1996–2001)
Lady Booth (2006–present)
Alma mater University of the Pacific
UC Berkeley School of Law

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 from June 2001 to July 2004 under President George W. Bush.

Early life

Theodore Olson was born in Chicago and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in Mountain View, California. He graduated from Los Altos High in 1958. In 1962, Olson completed his undergraduate degrees in communications and history at the University of the Pacific. He attended law school, earning his law degree from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley[1] in 1965.[2] At Boalt, Olson served as a contributor to the California Law Review.

Olson joined the Los Angeles, California office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher as an associate in 1965. In 1972, he was named Partner.[3]

From 1981 to 1984, Olson served as an Assistant Attorney General (Office of Legal Counsel) in the Reagan administration.[4] While serving in the Reagan administration, Olson was legal counsel to President Reagan during the Iran-Contra affair's investigation phase.[4] 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.

Department of Justice portrait of Theodore Olson

Olson argued a dozen cases before the Supreme Court prior to becoming Solicitor General;[5] 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.[4] 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.

Olson was nominated for the office of Solicitor General by President Bush on February 14, 2001, was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 24, 2001, and took office on June 11, 2001. 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.[6] Lee sued the federal government to discover which public officials had named him as a suspect to journalists before he had been charged.[6] 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.[6] In 2011, Olson represented the National Football League Players Association in the 2011 NFL lockout.[7][8]

Olson, over time, came to believe that there is a constitutional right for same-sex marriage.[9] In 2009, he joined with David Boies, 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.[10] His work on the lawsuit earned him a place among the Time 100's greatest thinkers.[11] In 2011, Olson and David Boies were awarded the ABA Medal, the highest award of the American Bar Association.[12]

Apple Inc. hired Olson to fight the FBI–Apple encryption dispute court order to unlock an iPhone, which ended with the government withdrawing its case.[13]

Olson is representing New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the Deflategate scandal.[14]

Personal life

Olson has been married four times. His first marriage was to Karen Beattie whom he met in college at University of the Pacific. Olson's second wife was Jolie Ann Bales, an attorney and a liberal Democrat. Olson's third wife,[15] Barbara Olson, was a passenger on the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 that was crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Her original plan had been to fly to California on September 10, but she delayed until the next morning so that she could wake up with her husband on his birthday, September 11.[16][17] On October 21, 2006, Olson married Lady Booth, a tax attorney from Kentucky and a lifelong Democrat.[15][18]


Olson was a founding member of the Federalist Society.[19] He has served on the board of directors of American Spectator magazine.[20] 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.[4] Olson served Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign as judicial committee chairman.[19] In 2012 he participated in Paul Ryan's preparation for the Vice Presidential debate, portraying Joe Biden.[21] He is one of the outspoken advocates for gay marriage in the Republican party.[22]

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.[23]


  1. "Mr Theodore Olson, Attorney". Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  2. Lewis, Neil A. (February 15, 2001). "Man in the News: Prize Job for a Bush Rescuer, Theodore Bevry Olson". The New York Times.
  3. "Ted Olson". Biography. A&E Television Networks. Retrieved October 11, 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 4 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.
  5. 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. Retrieved April 27, 2009.
  6. 1 2 3 Mears, Bill (May 22, 2006). "Deal in Wen Ho Lee Case May Be Imminent". CNN. Retrieved November 7, 2008.
  7. Kuriloff, Aaron (May 6, 2011). "Players' Lawyer Ted Olson Calls NFL Lockout Abuse of Monopoly". Bloomberg News. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  8. Breer, Albert (June 3, 2011). "NFL, players state lockout cases; court to rule in 'due course'". Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  9. Olson, Theodore B. (January 9, 2010). "The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage". Newsweek. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  10. Williams, Carol J. (May 26, 2009). "Bush vs. Gore Rivals Challenge Prop. 8 in Federal Court". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 26, 2009.
  11. Klein, Joe (April 29, 2010). "David Boies and Theodore Olson". The 2010 Time 100. Time. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. "Ted Olson Sees Glimmer of Hope For Tom Brady Appeal". CBS. 25 May 2016. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  15. 1 2 Argetsinger, Amy & Roberts, Roxanne (October 22, 2006). "Napa Nuptials for Olson and His Lady". The Reliable Source. The Washington Post. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
  16. composerguy (April 7, 2008). "What Barbara Olson Knew" via YouTube.
  17. drjamesfetzer (January 4, 2010). "Pentagon Explosion, No Flight 77: TED OLSON on Barbara: "Its impossible to think of her as Gone"" via YouTube.
  18. Parker, Ashley (August 18, 2010). "When Opposites Influence". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2010.
  19. 1 2 Oliphant, James (September 6, 2007). "Giuliani Hitches Star to Conservative Legal Group". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 27, 2008.
  20. 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.
  21. Sonmez, Felicia (September 15, 2012). "Paul Ryan Taps Ted Olson to Play Biden in Debate Prep". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
  22. Totenberg, Nina (December 6, 2010). "Ted Olson, Gay Marriage's Unlikely Legal Warrior". NPR.
  23. "Behind the Slander: Olson Played Hardball – But So Did the Dems". U-T San Diego. September 18, 2007. Retrieved September 18, 2007.


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Legal offices
Preceded by
Barbara Underwood
Solicitor General of the United States
Succeeded by
Paul Clement
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