From a conservative perspective, two legal issues come quickly to mind with respect to Rudy Giuliani — abortion, of course, and also the perception that as a federal prosecutor he tended to use the government’s power and the legal process abusively at times.
The first issue is pretty straightforward, at least as a legal matter. Either one accepts Giuliani’s statement that he will appoint stict constructionist judges like John Roberts and Samuel Alito, and that this is about all the president reasonably can do about Roe v. Wade, or one doesn’t. That said, the fact that Ted Olson, a leading conservative legal light who has known Giuliani well since 1981, is comfortable that Rudy would appoint non-activist judges provides some comfort.
On the second issue — over-zealous use of legal process — I turn to a different Olson. Walter Olson (no relation to Ted) will also serve on Giuliani’s committee. He is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and perhaps the nation’s foremost proponent of the proposition that this nation is “overlawyered” (the name of his blog) and in dire need of litigation reform.
Today, Walter Olson explained to me why he supports Giuliani. He began by acknowledging that Rudy’s days as a prosecutor had once caused him concern. To be sure, business and white collar defendants should not get a pass from prosecution, or even the humiliation that goes with it, in appropriate cases. But there was a sense that Giuliani may have gone overboard at times, using the law as a “blunt instrument.”
However, Olson believes, based on subsequent events, that this is not a serious concern. First, as a resident of New York city, Olson found that Giuliani showed good judgment in legal matters during his tenure as mayor. Despite pressure from various sources (including the New York Times) to go after business in novel ways, Giuliani didn’t bite. Moreover, as mayor it was Giuliani’s responsibility to defend against the multitude of frivolous lawsuits filed against the city’s service providers, such as hospitals. This tends to concentrate the mind of most mayors, but according to Olson, Giuliani reacted more forcefully than his predecessors. Indeed, as a law enforcement guy, Rudy seemed deeply offended that the system was being abused this way.
Olson has also found Giuliani’s top advisers committed to federalism and the need for litigation reform. And he notes that these sentiments are finding their way into Rudy’s speeches, often (to no one’s surprise) in the context of discussing his experiences as mayor.
In short, Olson is convinced that (1) Giuliani understands that our legal system is given to excess and (2) he doesn’t like it. That’s not a bad testimonial.
JOHN adds: The Giuliani campaign has done a follow-up post on the Candidates’ Forum, here. Let them know what you think of the full committee.
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