WASHINGTON — David Boies, the celebrated New York trial attorney who specializes in winning longshots, came to Florida this week to fortify Al Gore's battle for the presidency.
The 59-year-old is a legal heavyweight, brought in to augment a team that already includes former Secretary of State Warren Christopher and former Secretary of Commerce Bill Daley.
Earlier this year, Boies won the government's landmark antitrust assault on Microsoft Corp., despite the fact that the software giant had prevailed against the government in a previous legal dispute. Besides spearheading the Microsoft case--now on appeal--Boies helped defend CBS against a multimillion-dollar libel suit filed by Gen. William Westmoreland in 1984.
But some partisans think that Boies' hiring is ill-advised in a dispute of such grave national consequence. Boies is "a better litigator than politician," said C. Boyden Gray, legal counsel to former President Bush. "To me, he sends the wrong message--that you have to have a hired gun to win an election."
And James Love, a former campaign volunteer for Ralph Nader who praises Boies' legal skills, said Democrats may have been better off finding a local lawyer to solve a dispute in which Florida officials hold the keys.
"When it comes to talking to Florida judges, you'd think that maybe there are some lawyers in Florida that you'd want to use," Love said. "On the other hand, Boies certainly earned his spurs in the Microsoft case."
A self-described workaholic who once challenged colleagues by asking whether they would rather sleep or defeat opponents in court, Boies has built a reputation as one of the nation's most formidable trial lawyers. Yet he often draws as much notice for his idiosyncrasies--which include a penchant for gambling, rare steak and wearing black Reebok tennis shoes in court--as for his legal skills.
"He is the rare trial lawyer who is proficient . . . [in advancing] his client's cause in the court of public opinion," said William E. Kovacic, a George Washington University law school professor who has closely followed Boies' career.
(Boies' other clients have included New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and, more recently, the developer of the wildly successful music file-sharing program Napster.)
Gore campaign officials are "trying to demonstrate their seriousness [by] bringing in someone who has enjoyed extraordinary success in high-profile legal matters in the last two years," Kovacic said. Not only does Boies not take any prisoners, Kovacic said, but he has a reputation for a keen intellect and near photographic memory.
However, Boies may have far less control over the unfolding dispute in Florida than lawyers typically enjoy in the highly structured atmosphere of a courtroom.