Taking on Prop 8

How Jeremy Goldman helped battle the anti-gay marriage measure

Published in 2011 Northern California Rising Stars — August 2011

As a third-year law student, Jeremy Goldman closely followed Bush v. Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court case that reversed the Florida Supreme Court’s request for a ballot recount, awarding the state’s 25 electoral votes—and the 2000 presidential election—to George W. Bush.

“Like a lot of America’s current lawyers, I watched David [Boies] in that case,” Goldman says of the lawyer who argued for Al Gore. “I was disappointed by the [U.S.] Supreme Court’s decision, but to see David engage in that fight and not give up was inspiring. To see how he dealt with what was very clear political adversity … I thought, ‘The firm he’s at must be a special place to work.’” Goldman found out soon enough. In 2002, he secured an interview with Boies, Schiller & Flexner’s Oakland office and has been working there ever since. Boies is now on another huge case, and Goldman is working with him.

Before Goldman made his way to Yale for law school, he thought he’d end up teaching politics. “I started to realize,” he says, “that I was looking for something that had the intellectual challenge of academia but that was less abstract, less solitary in terms of a working environment.”

His passion for politics and the law met head-on in the civil rights lawsuit against California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 amendment to ban gay marriage in the state. “I was very saddened when it passed, and I was really struck by the extent to which the campaign was an attack on people based on who they are,” he says. “I felt that it was a dishonor to all Californians, because discrimination doesn’t belong in our constitution. So much of the history of our country is the story of struggle against inequality and prejudice.” 

When it became clear that the only solution was a constitutional challenge, Goldman asked Boies to be part of the firm’s team handling the case. Boies put him in charge of the day-to-day maintenance of the case. He supervised a team of Boies Schiller lawyers, coordinated with Gibson Dunn (the firm of Theodore Olson, who spearheaded the case with Boies and who, incidentally, beat him in Bush v. Gore), communicated with the city and county of San Francisco (which intervened as a plaintiff), took and defended depositions, and assisted with legal findings, including a response to a 100-page summary judgment filed by Prop 8 proponents. As second chair to Boies at trial, he was integral to trial strategy.

“Our plan was to really advance three themes,” Goldman says. “One, gay marriage does not harm heterosexual marriage in any way. Two, Prop 8 harms gay and lesbian individuals. It works great harm on them. Three, it also works harm on the children that are being raised by gay and lesbian couples.

“The nice thing about a trial, as opposed to a political campaign, is you can explore what stands behind the argument. During the campaign you saw the yard signs, bumper stickers, claims made with no evidence. Trial is where you have to support your claim with evidence. Going through the trial revealed that there was nothing behind these arguments.”

Right now, the case is on appeal. After the oral argument in the 9th Circuit in December, the court asked the California Supreme Court to answer a question dealing with the proponents’ standing to appeal. The proponents filed their opening brief in March, and the answering brief was filed in April, with oral argument expected as early as September and a decision within 90 days. Then it’s back to the 9th Circuit.

“I would say that the trial compellingly demonstrated that no evidence supports the arguments in favor of Proposition 8,” Goldman says.

Of course, there’s more to his practice than Prop 8. “The general area is complex commercial litigation,” he says, “but our firm really places a value on developing litigation skills that you can bring to different areas of law.” He’s handled cases involving federal securities, RICO, allegations of unfair competition, and breach of contract under common law. He has also helped clients respond to government investigations.

Goldman saves time for his family and for playing the piano. He plays classical and is trying to learn jazz. “You spend all day at the office thinking about things, and it’s hard to turn that off,” he says. “The nice thing about playing the piano is it takes you someplace else. It’s something that you can get lost in.”

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