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Hon. Edwin Meese III

Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow in Public Policy, The Heritage Foundation

Edwin Meese III is a prominent leader, thinker and elder statesman in the conservative movement – and America itself.

He holds the Ronald Reagan Chair in Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, responsible for keeping the president's legacy of conservative principles alive in public debate and discourse. He also is the Chairman of Heritage's Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, founded in 2001 to educate government officials, the media and the public about the Constitution, legal principles and how they affect public policy.

These two Heritage "hats" that Meese wears have made the former Attorney General and presidential adviser a major conservative voice in national policy debates at an age when most men enjoy quiet retirements. In 2006, for example, Meese became a member of the Iraq Study Group, a special presidential commission dedicated to examining the best resolutions for America's involvement in Iraq.

In 2004, after the death of his longtime friend, mentor and employer President Ronald Reagan, Meese appeared frequently on all three major cable news channels to discuss Reagan's impact on America today. He often summarized Reagan's legacy in three accomplishments: 1) He cut taxes and kept them low. 2) He worked to end the Soviet Union and its worldwide push for communism. 3) He restored America's faith in itself at a time when failure and malaise reigned.

"I admired him as a leader and cherish his friendship," Meese wrote in a special 2004 essay to Heritage members and supporters. "Ronald Reagan had strong convictions. He was committed to the principles that had led to the founding of our nation. And he had the courage to follow his convictions against all odds."

Meese spent most of his adult life working with Reagan when the former actor was President and Governor of California. He served as the 75th Attorney General of the United States from February 1985 to August 1988.  As the nation's chief law enforcement officer, he directed the Justice Department and led international efforts to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime.  In 1985, he received the Government Executive magazine's annual award for excellence in management.

From January 1981 to February 1985, Meese held the position of Counsellor to the President – the senior position on the White House Staff – where he functioned as Reagan's chief policy adviser.

As Attorney General and as Counsellor, Meese was a member of Reagan's Cabinet and the National Security Council. He served as chairman of the Domestic Policy Council and of the National Drug Policy Board.

Meese headed Reagan's transition effort after the former governor won the 1980 presidential election. During the presidential campaign that year, he served as Chief of Staff and senior issues adviser for the Reagan-Bush Committee.

Formerly, Meese served as Gov. Reagan's Executive Assistant and Chief of Staff in California from 1969 through 1974. He also was his Legal Affairs Secretary from 1967 through 1968.  Before joining Gov. Reagan's staff in 1967, Meese served as Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County, Calif.

Reagan never forgot Meese's loyalty and hard work to him over the years. During a press conference where reporters questioned Reagan about Meese's actions as Attorney General, the president replied: "If Ed Meese is not a good man, there are no good men."

Meese had a career outside of government and politics, too. From 1977 to 1981, he was a Professor of Law at the University of San Diego, where he also was Director of the Center for Criminal Justice Policy and Management.

In addition to his background as a lawyer, educator and public official, Meese has been a business executive in the aerospace and transportation industry, serving as Vice President for administration of Rohr Industries, Inc. in Chula Vista, Calif. He left Rohr to return to the practice of law, engaging in corporate and general legal work in San Diego County.

Meese joined Heritage in 1988 as Heritage's first Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow – the only policy chair officially named for the president in the country. But Meese's relationship with Heritage started several years before, when he met with Heritage executives over the think tank's landmark policy guide, Mandate for Leadership, as a member of the incoming Reagan Administration. Meese later said that Reagan personally handed out copies of the 1,093-page book to members of his Cabinet at their first meeting together and asked them all to read it. In the end, nearly two-third of Mandate's 2,000 recommendations were adopted or attempted by the Reagan Administration.

More than a decade after joining Heritage, Meese took on a new role as Chairman of its Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. Under Meese's guidance, it has counseled White House staffers, Justice Department officials and Senate Judiciary Committee members about the importance of filling judicial vacancies with people committed to interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning. These actions helped officials select many outstanding judges over the years, including members of the Supreme Court. In addition, the center has for years hosted "moot court" practice sessions for constitutionalist attorneys slated to argue important cases before the Supreme Court.  Those cases addressed issues ranging from racial preferences in K-12 schools to campaign finance restrictions on free speech to property rights.

Meese also served as Chairman of the Advisory Board to the center's best-selling book, The Heritage Guide to the Constitution. The guide provides a clause-by-clause analysis of the founding document by 109 legal experts. Regnery published the guide in 2005, and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), kept it handy when he sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the hearings for then-Supreme Court nomine Samuel Alito. The guide went into its fifth printing in 2006.

He is the author or co-author of three books: Leadership, Ethics and Policing, published by Prentice Hall in 2004; co-editor of Making America Safer, published in 1997 by Heritage; and the author of With Reagan: The Inside Story, which Regnery Gateway published in June 1992.

Edwin Meese III was born Dec. 2, 1931, to Edwin Jr. and Leone Meese in Oakland, Calif. He graduated from Yale University in 1953 and holds a law degree from the University of California-Berkeley. He is a retired Colonel in the Army Reserve and remains active in numerous civic and educational organizations.

Meese also is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California. In addition, Meese lectures, writes, and consults throughout the United States on a variety of subjects.


The Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues. The people listed as Experts have spoken or otherwise participated in Federalist Society events, publications, or multimedia presentations. A person's appearance on this list does not imply any other endorsement or relationship between the person and the Federalist Society. All expressions of opinion by an expert are those of the expert.

Publications and Multimedia
An Interview with Former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese - Event Audio
2014 Annual Western Chapters Conference
February 03, 2014
Federalism and State Immigration Policy - Event Audio
Sixth Annual Western Conference
January 28, 2012
Detention and Trial of Terrorist Suspects - Event Audio/Video
International & National Security Law Practice Group
May 28, 2009
The War on Terror: Litigation Update - Event Audio
International & National Security Law Practice Group
February 24, 2009
Address by Edwin Meese III - Event Audio/Video
The Presidency and the Courts
October 06, 2008
Hate Crimes: What is the Proper Federal Role? - Event Audio/Video
Civil Rights and Federalism & Separation of Powers Practice Groups and The Heritage Foundation
May 08, 2008
25th Anniversary Gala - Event Audio/Video
2007 National Lawyers Convention
November 15, 2007
25th Anniversary Tribute Video
2007 National Lawyers Convention
November 15, 2007
Judicial Philosophy/Originalism-The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of the Law - Event Video
A Conference Discussing the Contributions of Judge Robert H. Bork
June 26, 2007
Interview with The Honorable Edwin Meese, III - Event Audio
The Legacy of the Department of Justice Under Attorney General Edwin Meese, III
January 27, 2007
The Role of Government in Defining Our Culture - Event Audio
2006 National Lawyers Convention
November 18, 2006
Federalism in Law Enforcement
Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Newsletter - Volume 2, Issue 1, Spring 1998
May 01, 1998
The Great Debate
Speech by Attorney General Edwin Meese, III before The Federalist Society Lawyers Division on November 15, 1985
November 01, 1986
The Great Debate
Speech by Attorney General Edwin Meese III before the American Bar Association on July 9, 1985
November 01, 1986