[APPLAUSE] ELIZABETH GARRETT: Welcome. I'm Elizabeth Garrett, the president of Cornell. And we are so happy to have you here today. I'm pleased we are able to present as our Trustee Council Weekend keynote speaker, Mr. David Boies, a renowned litigator who has had a major impact on the legal landscape in the United States and internationally. As a professor of law, I have long been fascinated by David's career. Thank you so much, David, for joining us during this special weekend that brings our trustees and Cornell Council members to campus. I know that many of them are here today with our faculty, staff, and students, who are eager to hear your thoughts.
David Boies's lecture is sponsored by the Cornell Law School, the ILR School, and the Martin and Lori Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution. And I thank all of them for bringing us this special occasion. Marty Scheinman, an alumnus, trustee, and benefactor of the university, has worked with Dave and encouraged him to accept our invitation. So thank you, Marty, for your good offices.
I have to say, I've only been president a few months, and I've already learned to rely on Marty for many things. So this is only one of many things I have to thank you for.
David is the chair of the firm, Boies, Schiller & Flexner, LLP, with offices in cities around the nation. His career has featured numerous high-profile cases with significant impact on our society. And his clients include American Express, Apple, Barclays, CBS, Dupont, NASCAR, the New York Yankees, Oracle, and Sony.
In 1998 to 2000, he served as special trial counsel for the US Department of Justice in the anti-trust suit against Microsoft. Mr. Boies also served as the lead counsel for former Vice President Al Gore in litigation relating to the 2000 election in Florida. His defeat in Bush v. Gore is a rarity in his formidable career.
13 years later, he joined forces with conservative Theodore Olson, the opposing counsel in the Gore case, and he won judgments in Perry versus Brown that established the constitutional right to marry for gay and lesbian citizens in California.
This case, in my view, is one of the most significant and influential cases in the road to the ultimate case just recently that established that constitutional right for all citizens of this country. And we thank you for undertaking that. Mr. Boies has been selected as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world by Time magazine. He's been named Global International Litigator of the Year by Who's Who Legal an unprecedented number of times.
Several of his cases including the ones I mentioned illustrate how law can have broad consequences for our society. And I think they also illustrate the power and responsibility that lawyers assume when they take on these cases. Mr. Boies has seen close up and understands better than the vast majority of us how legal cases can change our world. We are fortunate indeed to have him here today to discuss litigation as a tool for social change. Please join me in welcoming David Boies.
DAVID BOIES: Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here. And it's a pleasure to talk about something that matters a great deal to me, and I hope matters a great deal to you, which is our justice system and how our justice system works to make us a better society.
I went to law school because I wanted to change the world. And I thought that by changing the rules that regulate our conduct, we could change the world. And to some extent, that's true.
But one of the things that I've learned is that the law is an engine for social change in two ways. One is the obvious way. It changes the rules that regulate our lives. It changes who we can marry. It changes who gets an education. It changes what kind of wages do we pay to people. But it also is a engine for social change because it has the capacity to educate. It has a capacity to change people's minds and hearts as well as to change the laws that we have to live under.
And the cases that I've been involved in from the 1960s, when I was a young lawyer in Mississippi working as a volunteer for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, the cases that I'm doing today, I think, illustrate the different ways that law really moves and changes not only the rules that regulate our lives, but how we think about our lives, how we think about the principles that motivate us, how we think about other people, how we think about the ways that we ought to deal with other people as human beings.
The racial Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s was one of the most difficult struggles that I've ever been involved in. And it's a struggle that's continuing today. If somebody had told me in the middle 1960s that we still would have the vestiges of past discrimination that we continue to fight with today, I would have said, not going to happen. We're going to change the world. We're changing the world right now. We've integrated schools. We've gotten people the right to vote. We're registering voters. A year after I first went down to Mississippi, the Supreme Court decided Loving against Virginia, which struck down the laws still existing in 16 states at the time that prohibited interracial marriage. I was told recently that some of those laws in some of those states are still on the books. They haven't been repealed. But they are no longer enforced because the Supreme Court held that they were unconstitutional. But despite that progress, despite that progress in the courts, we've continued to have to fight those issues. And we've continued to have to fight the issues that have descended from that history of discrimination.
One of the things we were talking about just a few minutes ago was what the next civil rights struggle is going to be. And I think one of the most important civil rights struggles is going to be the struggle for economic rights, for economic justice, for the ability of children to go to school and get a decent education regardless of where they live. Right now, where you live determines what kind of education you can get, unless your family is able to pay for very, very expensive private schools. It doesn't determine how much national defense you get. It doesn't determine how much police protection you get. It doesn't determine whether the fire department comes to your house or not, but it determines what kind of education you get.
Uniquely, we've decided that we're going to finance education in such a way that you do not have a decent education going to the people in our society who most need it. The people that most need help to get started in life are the people who grow up in economically disadvantaged areas. And yet, those are the people that we have the least progress in terms of introducing new technology, introducing even adequate laboratory facilities. It's awful hard to do the background work in science that you need to get into college and certainly, to do anything scientifically in college, if you don't have a laboratory in your high school. And yet, thousands of schools around this country don't have laboratories. They don't have computers available for their students.
And there is now litigation trying to deal with that, trying to deal with that as a matter of constitutional rights, constitutional rights, to some extent, under state constitutions. Some state constitutions actually have written into the constitution the right to a quality education. We don't have that in the federal constitution, but we do have in the federal constitution concepts of equal protection and due process, which, if you think about the importance of education, which helps make every other civil right effective, it is something that is going to be a fundamental part, I think, of the next generation of civil rights cases. And it's important that those cases not only change the rules, but change the way we think about education, change the way we think about equal opportunity.
If you think about our country, the concept of a free market, the concept of equal opportunity, the concept of everybody achieving the most they can, and the concept that we don't disparage-- we celebrate the people that are enormously successful, sometimes perhaps more than we should. But what we do is we celebrate that. We support it. We permit it as a society because we think that is something that has both economic and social benefits to the kind of society we want.
But that social compact that permits that depends on people believing that they, and even more so, their children, are going to have an equal opportunity. People will accept a great diversity of their own lives if they believe their children are going to get a new deal. We all play the hands we have, but it's all important to us that our children are going to get a new deal and have an opportunity for an equal opportunity to succeed.
When that breaks down, as it is increasingly breaking down, what happens is it undermines that social compact, and it undermines the basic premise that we have as a free, open, competitive society. And this is something that, like the marriage equality movement, is not an issue of liberals or conservatives, not an issue of Republicans or Democrats. This is an issue that goes to the heart of the kind of society that we all want to have.
One of the things that interested some people was that Ted Olson and I were on the same side in marriage equality. But when you think about it, equal opportunity, equality, the principles of our constitution are at the root of every conservative's philosophy. They are at the root of certainly the Libertarian philosophy. Sometimes, some of the consequences of that get lost. But these basic principles of freedom, opportunity, equality are at the core of what conservatives and liberals believe, Republicans and Democrats. And one of the things that the law can do is the law can help coalesce those views. It can help bring those views into focus. It can help enforce those views in a way that you often cannot do in the legislature.
If we had waited to integrate the schools until the legislatures in the states of the old Confederacy were prepared to do that, we might still be waiting.
If we had waited to bring marriage equality to some of those same states, we would still be waiting. So the law and the court system play a critical role in promoting principles that a vast majority of this entire country can agree to. But there are always going to be places where, without the court system, you're not going to be able to enforce those rights.
And the racial discrimination of the last century, the last centuries plural, the economic discrimination of this and the future part of this century are both of a piece, because both prevent individuals from fully fulfilling their opportunity, having the opportunity to be everything that they can be and to bequeath to their children the opportunity to do that.
And the marriage equality battle that we just have come through, I think is one of the best illustrations of that principle. And that is because when we started the Perry case in 2009, nobody gave us much of a chance to win. 60% of the American people opposed same-sex marriage, more than 60% when we first started the case. Even organizations that were very supportive of the concept of equal opportunity and marriage equality felt it was the wrong time. It was too soon. We were trying to push the courts too fast. The chances were, they believed, we would lose, and we could even set back the movement for civil rights.
Six years after that, we have marriage equality in all 50 states. And that happened for two different reasons. One, it happened because it was the right thing under the Constitution. It was the right legal principle. It was a principle that we established at trial in terms of the factual predicate. And that was very important. It was critical.
But it also happened because people's hearts and minds changed about this issue over a very brief period of time. And the court cases were not the only reason, maybe not even the most important reason, why that changed, but they were a significant contributor to it. Because what they did was they focused people's attention on this issue. They made people stop and think about what discrimination in this area meant. It made people stop and think about what this kind of discrimination was doing to their friends, their neighbors, their teachers, their students, sometimes members of their family. It had been easy until this litigation.
And this litigation didn't begin in 2009. That was when we brought the federal case. There had been a number of cases that had progressed in states under state constitutional provisions. But the whole panoply of that litigation made people think about this issue, face this issue, and talk about this issue.
And this was an issue that Ted and I believed from the beginning, that if people would simply focus on, there was only one way they were going to come out. This was an issue that I really think there is no other side to.
Part of being a good lawyer is always figuring out what the other side is going to argue. You want to figure out the best argument that the other side has so you can get ready to defeat it. This was an argument that the more we thought about it, the harder it was to figure out what there was on the other side.
During the trial, at the very beginning of the trial, we told the court that we were going to prove two very important things. We were going to prove that preventing people from marrying the person they love simply based on the sex of that person seriously harmed gay and lesbian couples and seriously harmed the children that they were raising. And we said, second, we're going to prove that this kind of discrimination does not help anybody. It does not advance any societal interest. It doesn't make anybody's heterosexual marriage better. It doesn't preserve traditional marriage. It doesn't have anything to do with other people's marriage, except maybe to make them stronger, maybe enhance the image of marriage.
And we proved both of those things not only from our own witnesses-- and we brought witnesses from all over the world-- but from cross-examination of their witnesses. Because their witnesses had to come up on the witness stand, sit in the witness chair, and answer questions. And the power of the legal system to do that, to make people come forward and answer for their assertions and defend those assertions, subject to cross-examination, is a powerful tool for truth.
The witness stand is a very lonely place to lie.
You're up there all by yourself. You don't get to choose the dialogue. Somebody else chooses the dialogue. You don't have anybody that you can talk to. There's no lifeline--
--from the witness stand. You've simply got to answer those questions.
And what happens is that when you try to lie, what happens is it's very hard. It is harder than you may think to be on the witness stand and try to defend a proposition that isn't true when you've got a skilled advocate on the other side asking you questions, picking them apart, hour after hour, sometimes day after day, to the point where you may not remember what you said to this answer before. And when you're not telling the truth, remembering what you said before is really important.
And so people began to contradict themselves. And that process of both educating people about what the facts are and showing people the face of the contradictions helps change people's minds, and sometimes, it even changes the minds of the people that you're dealing with.
We had an expert witness. The chief expert witness for the defendants in the California Perry case was a gentleman who had spent the last 15 years of his life promoting what he called traditional marriage and debating against the idea of what he called gay marriage. And he was a very articulate spokesman. He was the only expert witness that survived the discovery process.
As all you lawyers know, and perhaps many of you who are not lawyers, in a case, you have what is called discovery. You get to get people's documents. You get to make them come and answer questions in depositions. They had the eight experts. Six of those eight experts decided after the depositions they didn't want to show up for trial.
Their other expert was somebody who talked about the science. So the only person that was really directly talking about a defense of marriage discrimination was this witness. And he had a vigorous cross-examination. We cross-examined him with some intensity, but with respect. And gradually, over the cross-examination, he was forced to confront what he was saying. He was forced to confront what he believed about this with what he knew certain facts were.
For example, one of the things that I asked him is, why marriage, traditional marriage, the kind of marriage he supported, was important. And he talked about how important it was to children to be raised by a couple that were married, because it gave them security. It gave them a sense of belonging. It gave them a sense that this wasn't going to change. It gave them the sense that the people raising them were committed to each other.
And I said, do you think that's true for children who are being raised by a gay couple? He thought about it, and he said yes. And I said, do you think that's true for children who are being raised by a lesbian couple? He said yes. And does the fact that they're a couple that are raising these children can't get married, does that hurt these children? And he had to say yes. And before that, he'd already admitted that not being able to marry, themselves marry, seriously harmed the couple itself.
So you had, from their witness, a concession of one of the things we wanted to prove, which is not being able to get married is an important discrimination. Because they started out, the other side, saying, well, you can have civil unions. Why should people have to get married? Married is only for us, not for them. But here was the reason why marriage had to be for everybody. Because preventing people from getting married seriously harmed them, seriously harmed the children they were raising.
And at the end of the examination, we talked about the American principles of equality. And one of the last questions I asked him is whether he would agree that America would be more true to its principles if we allowed everyone to marry the person they love, regardless of the sex of the partner. He said yes.
And about nine months after, he wrote an editorial, and op ed piece in The New York Times in which he recanted what he said. He thought that his prior views were wrong. And he thought that he had been wrong then, and he was sorry for all the people he'd hurt.
Sometimes, you have to show people the truth before you can get them to accept the truth. And there is no better way to do that than our legal system. And that change in this person was just emblematic of the change that happened all around this country as people stopped to think about what was the purpose of this discrimination, what was the cost of this discrimination, who was being harmed by this discrimination, and what conceivable purpose did it serve.
I think that one of the things that was most critical for the success that we had was that you had had a demographic shift in this country that had taken place over three or four decades. Starting in the '60s early '70s, more and more gay and lesbian individuals came out and acknowledged their sexual orientation. And what was radically rare when I grew up became commonplace for my children and grandchildren. And what that meant is that my children grew up knowing doctors, lawyers, teachers, friends who were of differing sexual orientations. And when you put a human face on discrimination, when you know the people that are being discriminated against, it's a lot harder.
And the great thing that the court cases did was it now made people stop and think about what they were doing to their friends and neighbors, children, parents, uncles and aunts who had a different sexual orientation. And when people don't stop and think, it's easy to continue in the old patterns. Much more difficult to do that when you're forced to confront the fact that you're discriminating and the cost, the damage that that discrimination has.
I think that if there was one case that most validates why I went to law school, it would have probably been the marriage equality case. It would not have been Bush v. Gore, the way it turned out.
But that case too, even in the way it turned out, and maybe particularly because of the way it turned out, emphasizes the importance of law, the important contribution the law can make to social change. I mean, if you think about that difference-- and I do-- that this country would be, this world would be, if I had managed to get one more vote in the United States Supreme Court, it can be frustrating. It can be maddening sometimes. But it always reinforces the principle of how important the law is as a tool for ordering society.
And you see that importance, both when it works and when it doesn't work. And when it doesn't work, what it says is, how are we going to make it better? How are we going to make sure that the next time this happens, the results are different? And we are constantly working as lawyers and as citizens to try to make this society and make the government work better for people. And as a lawyer, you have the opportunity to do that in a process of suing people, being sued sometimes, but advocating more than suing in terms of trying to establish the right principles that will move the society forward.
There have been a lot of cases in my career that I have been very happy with result in. There have been some, like Bush v. Gore, where I've been very unhappy with the results. But each one of those cases that involved an important social issue-- the freedom to marry the person you love, racial justice, economic justice, the right of a free press.
One of my early cases, I represented CBS in a libel suit brought by General William Westmoreland over a documentary by CBS that criticized various things that he had done during the Vietnam War. And be sued for defamation. And if I hadn't been a lawyer, I would have probably been an American history teacher like my father was. And the opportunity to revisit the Vietnam War was a opportunity that I couldn't pass up.
And sometimes, I probably misused the judicial process a little bit. I took Dean Rusk's deposition down in Athens, Georgia, where he was teaching. And I had two days. The court had given me two days. And after the first day, I had really probably all I really needed for my litigation. But I just couldn't pass up the opportunity just to continue to ask him how in the world he thought the American people were ever going to support this war long enough to win it. And I had the opportunity to take the depositions of Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, all of the people who were still alive who had been part of that war effort. It was something that was, from a legal standpoint, important, but from a historical standpoint, great.
So you get those kind of rewards sometimes on your way to establishing, or trying to establish, an important legal principle.
But the principle of freedom of the press is something that is enforced by the law, and in the absence of constitutional litigation would not be enforced. Survey after survey after survey shows that the First Amendment loses most times in polls as to whether people would vote for it or not. It's not necessarily popular with the majority. But the great thing about this country is that it's built on the premise that there are certain rights that are so fundamental that no majority can take them away from us. And the law creates social change by changing what rights fall into that category.
At the time of the Constitution-- it begins, "We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union." You ever think about what "we the people" meant? "We the people" did not mean we the people. "We the people" meant we, white male, Protestant largely, property owners have these rights. But the progress of our country-- and it has been progress driven to a large extent by the law-- has been to take more and more people who are outside the circle of "we the people" and move them inside the circle of "we the people." Whether they were outside because of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, we've brought them in, into the circle of "we the people." And we've done that through the law. And we've done that with every group that we've tried to do it with over time. And I have confidence that we're eventually going to do that with respect to people that are subject to economic discrimination.
It may be true, as our intended savior once said, that the poor will always be with us. But it doesn't have to be something that you inherit. There will always be rich or poor, always be successful and unsuccessful. But that's not something that ought to be an inherited trait. That is something that ought to be left up to people in terms of their abilities, their willingness to work, all the things that go into creativity and contributions to society. But it ought not to be an inherited trait.
These principles, whether it is racial, gender, sexual orientation, religious, economic discrimination, are all the kinds of things that we need to do as a society to make us really whole, to really use all of the talents that we have and make everybody a participant. And that's not only something that's fair. It's something that we need for our own survival to begin to learn to do. We cannot compete globally if we are not using all of the talents of the people that we have. We cannot begin to compete with Europe, yet alone with China and India, if we are not able to continue to generate the kind of creativity and the kind of strength that comes from utilizing all of our resources.
One of the things in the marriage equality fight that was particularly helpful was that we had the support of almost every major corporation. People think of corporations as being kind of conservative and not wanting to get involved in social change. And sometimes that's true. But one thing that corporations figured out before the rest of society was that there were a lot of really talented gay and lesbian workers out there. And if they were nice to them, they would get them when somebody else didn't.
And so what happened was you had diversity programs and inclusion programs in corporations that were not just driven by law. They were driven by self-interest. And we as a society have that same self-interest except writ large. It is a self-interest to try to utilize everybody's talents, regardless of race, religion, gender, but also regardless of who their parents are and what economic circumstances they come to.
And the ability of the legal system to do that over and over again comes from its ability, its two-part ability, first, to change the law, to change the rules that regulate our lives, but also to change the way people think about it. And there is probably no better example of that than a case called Bostic against Virginia. The Perry case was the first case in which a court established that individuals had a right to marry the person they love, regardless of sex, under the federal constitution. We did that in California, and California is a relatively liberal, inclusive state. It was the kind of state that everybody expected that if we won, the population would be accepting of what we were doing.
The second case that Ted and I brought was in Virginia. Virginia had a somewhat less welcoming attitude.
It was pointed out to us more than once, both by people who were on our side and people who weren't, that Virginia was the origin of Loving against Virginia, which was the 1967 case in which the Supreme Court had to tell Virginia that it could no longer put people in jail because they were marrying somebody of a different race, including one of the state court judges, who presided over a portion of the Loving case, whose expressed view was that if God had intended the races to mix, he would have mixed them up.
But Virginia, perhaps true to that tradition, had one of the most archaic and one of the most discriminatory constitutions and statutory schemes with respect to gender discrimination in the country. Not only did it constitutionally prohibit same-sex marriage, but it prohibited civil unions, and it prohibited even private contracts between people of the same sex. It would have what they called the attributes of marriage so that if you had a couple living together and they wanted to provide for a common inheritance and the like, the Virginia constitution-- reported, at least-- would prohibit that.
So this was a state in which one could have expected, if we won, to face opposition, to face a backlash. We tried the case in Norfolk, Virginia. We won the case. Went up to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. We won the case. The Supreme Court denied [INAUDIBLE], so the case was final. And when that case became final, people all over Virginia started to get married. All these same-sex couples began to get married. You know what happened? Nothing.
There were no protests. Nobody got upset. The sky didn't fall. Heterosexual marriages continued to come apart, but no more than they had before.
And people simply accepted this as right and sort of said, oh, yeah, sure. And that is a product of what the law can do.
Now, it's not always that simple. And we still have a long ways to go in terms of eradicating some vestiges of sexual orientation discrimination. Brown and cases following it eliminated government imposed discrimination. But it took the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, the public accommodation provisions, to begin to eliminate discrimination in commerce and business and in many aspects of people's personal lives. We're going to be litigating those issues with respect to areas of sexual orientation for some years to come.
And some areas, like in the areas of racial discrimination, we are still-- if you can believe it-- more than 50 years after, more than half a century after Brown, still not achieving what the court believed that we would achieve in this country with, as they put it at the time, "all deliberate speed." 50 years is not "all deliberate speed."
So it's not easy. It's not complete. But it is a process that starts us on the right road. And how fast we can take it, how far we can take it will vary from discrimination to discrimination. It will vary with a lot of circumstances. It will vary with who's on the Supreme Court. There is no power that a president has that is more enduring than his or her power to put somebody on the Supreme Court. And if you think about how different the court would be and our lives would be and our rights would be if any one of the last three presidents had been of a different party-- think about how different the Supreme Court would be if Gore rather than Bush had appointed the successors to Rehnquist and O'Connor. On the other hand, think how different it would be if McCain rather than Obama had appointed most recent appointee, or how different it would have been if the Republican candidate rather than Clinton had appointed the people-- Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
So those kind of decisions make a tremendous difference in how the law is going to be applied at any given time. But the process is continuing. The fact that you had Plessy against Ferguson that upheld segregation didn't mean that you stopped the process of using the law for social change. You just came back at it again and again, maybe going around the edges. And that's exactly what happened with the racial discrimination.
Plessy was lost. But then they first said, well, what about law school? You can't have separate but equal law schools? The court said, well, yeah, you're right. So you've got to let everybody into law school and medical school. And then it became certain universities. And eventually, you broaden that base so people began to realize that there was no stopping point, there was no basis for stopping the march to equality.
The same thing is now happening with respect to sexual orientation. I hope the same thing is going to happen in the future with respect to economic discrimination.
But the ability of the legal system to change the rules and change people's hearts and minds is something that will continue, I hope, to attract people to law school. Because it is a way to change the world-- not as much as we'd like, not always in the ways we'd like.
Citizens United it is a tool for social change. It's not the tool that I would choose. But the right of corporations-- and as I tell my friend Ted Olson from time to time, if you believe that money is speech, you can probably believe that corporations are people.
But the establishment of the right of corporations to contribute unlimited amounts to political campaigns changed our society, is changing our society, and will change our society much more than it has already, particularly as it begins to affect people running for not just president of the United States and maybe senators, but congresspeople, state legislatures, county supervisors, mayors, people on school boards. All of those things are going to--
So when we talk about law as a tool for social change, we have to remember that not everybody is going to agree on what the right social changes are. And one of the things that's most important, I think, is to recognize the power that the courts have, the power that the law has, both for good and for not good.
Individuals' assessments of what falls into the good category and what falls into the not good category may change. But I think we all recognize that the law is such a powerful tool for social change that we all have to pay attention to it. We all have to be sure that we have as good judges as we can have. We've all got to be sure that our law schools do a good job of educating students, not only how to make a living, but how make the law a better place. We can do that. We have done that. I think you've seen that over the years. We can't stop doing that, because if we stop doing that, progress stops and maybe even goes in the wrong direction.
This has been an exciting time to be a lawyer. I speak at commencements from time to time. And one of the things that I sometimes say is that many commencement speakers will say to graduates that we've made a real mess of the world, and now it's up to you to fix it.
And it is true that we've left a lot to be done. But I challenge graduates to make as much progress as we've made over the last 50 to 75 years. When I was born, only about 12% of the world's population lived under leaders that they elected. Black children could not go to school with white children. In many states, women couldn't control their own property. A wife could not accuse her husband of assault in most cases. The definition of rape in Illinois, where I was born, was sexual intercourse against her will with a woman not your wife.
The degree of discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation-- I mean, sexual orientation was literally a death sentence in many places. And it certainly was a sentence to poverty because you could not get a job. Dwight Eisenhower, who was not the most radical right wing president we've had, issued an executive order in the middle 1950s that forbid the employment of any homosexual in any position in the government. You couldn't be a click typist. You couldn't be a mail carrier because it was viewed as something that was beyond the pale.
Those things have changed. We've made enormous progress in all those areas over my lifetime. But we've got an enormous amount still to do. And the law, not the only way we're going to do it, but it is an important way that we're going to do it.
And in the tradition of Google as well as CBS, let me leave you with an advertisement.
And that's an advertisement for our judicial system. When I graduated from law school, a federal judge was paid maybe five times what I made, less than what a partner in a law firm made, but not a bad salary. Today, my law firm pays a student from Cornell that we hire, before they've even passed the bar, more than a federal judge who's been on the bench for 25 years.
State judges are paid even less. And the funding for our state courts is in disarray. There are judges in places around the country who have lost their health insurance because the county or state in which they're in doesn't have the money, or won't pay the money, to do that. It's not a lot of money.
The entire court system, entire justice system, takes up less than 1% of most state budgets. You can get a 50% improvement in the justice system with a half of 1% of the state budget in most states.
If we're not prepared to spend the money that we need to recruit, retain the very best people as judges, we're not going to have the kind of legal system that we all want and need. And that too is not Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. Anybody who goes into court wants to have a good judge, wants to have a judge that can understand, who's going to pay attention and be able to make a fair and right decision. That's critical to our judicial process. It's critical to the use of the law as a tool for social change. But we're endangering that right now by not being able to keep people on the bench. They can't send their children to college. Sometimes they can't afford basic kinds of courtesies that we all want for our families. So I'll leave you with that advertisement. Think about that when you're thinking about the priorities that we ought to have in our society.
But to go back to my theme, celebrate the law. Celebrate what we can do with law. Celebrate our ability to change our society. Make our society a better, more inclusive place by changing the rules and regulations that we live under, but also, by using the law to bring the kind of cases that change people's hearts and minds. Thank you very much.
ELIZABETH GARRETT: That was great. It was terrific. Thank you.
DAVID BOIES: [INAUDIBLE]
ELIZABETH GARRETT: You know, above the Supreme Court, above the Supreme Court is a phrase, "equal justice under law." And I think you see today why lawyers like David Boies make those words more than just words, but a reality for more and more Americans. Thank you very much. I'm proud to be a lawyer. Thank you all for being here. And we look forward to seeing you over the weekend. Thank you.
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David Boies, who helped engineer a major high court victory for same-sex marriage in 2013, delivered the keynote address of this year's Trustee-Council Annual Meeting, Oct. 22, 2015 in Alice Statler Auditorium. Boies is chairman of the law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner.
The event is co-sponsored by ILR School, the Law School, and the Scheinman Institute for Conflict Resolution.