Edwin Meese III

Awards and Honors:

Edwin Meese was formerly a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. He served as the seventy-fifth attorney general of the United States from February 1985 to August 1988.

Meese is also a distinguished fellow and holder of the Ronald Reagan Chair in Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation; a regent emeritus of the National College of District Attorneys; and a member of the board of trustees of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. He received a Bradley Prize in 2012.

Before serving as US attorney general, he was counselor to the president from 1981 to 1985. In this capacity he functioned as the president's chief policy adviser and had management responsibility for the administration of the Cabinet, policy development, and planning and evaluation. During the time he held these positions, Meese was also a member of the president's cabinet and the National Security Council.

Meese headed the president-elect's transition effort following the November 1980 election. During the presidential campaign, he served as chief of staff and senior issues adviser for the Reagan-Bush committee.

Formerly he served as Governor Reagan's executive assistant and chief of staff in California from 1969 through 1974 and as legal affairs secretary from 1967 through 1968. Before joining Governor Reagan’s staff in 1967, Meese served as deputy district attorney of Alameda County, California.

From 1977 to 1981, Meese was a professor of law at the University of San Diego, where he was also director of the Center for Criminal Justice Policy and Management.

In addition to his background as a lawyer, educator, and policy official, Meese has been a business executive in the aerospace and transportation industry. He is also the author or coauthor of two books, With Reagan: The Inside Story (Regnery Gateway, 1992) and Leadership, Ethics and Policing (Prentice Hall, 2004).

He is active in numerous civic and educational organizations and a retired colonel in the US Army Reserve.

Meese is a graduate of Yale University (1953) and holds a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley.

His research papers are available at the Hoover Institution Archives.

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Recent Commentary

Analysis and Commentary

An Amnesty by Any Other Name ...

by Edwin Meese IIIvia New York Times
Wednesday, May 24, 2006

In the debate over immigration, "amnesty" has become something of a dirty word…

PATRIOT GAMES: The Patriot Act in Review

with Edwin Meese III, Dorothy Ehrlichvia Uncommon Knowledge
Monday, October 27, 2003

In October 2001, in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, Congress passed, and President Bush signed, the USA Patriot Act. The law is intended to prevent future terrorist acts by enhancing various law enforcement tools. Critics argue that the Patriot Act is a dangerous infringement on American civil liberties. Now, more than two years after the passage of the Patriot Act, do we have any evidence that the critics are right? For that matter, do we even know whether the Patriot Act is working to deter terrorism? Should the Patriot Act be allowed to expire, or should its provisions become a permanent part of the war on terrorism?

How Reagan Helped to Build the House of Bush

by Edwin Meese IIIvia Hoover Digest
Tuesday, January 30, 2001

George W. Bush, it seems plausible to argue, wouldn’t have been elected president in 2000 if George H. W. Bush hadn’t been elected president in 1988. And George H. W. Bush wouldn’t have been elected president in 1988 if Ronald Reagan hadn’t invited him to be Reagan’s running mate in 1980. Hoover fellow Edwin Meese III describes how Reagan decided to issue that 1980 invitation–starting the Bushes on their way.

The Dangerous Federalization of Crime

by Edwin Meese IIIvia Hoover Digest
Friday, July 30, 1999

Federal crimes used to be limited to matters that truly involved the whole nation, such as treason and counterfeiting. But lately the federal government has been amending its criminal statutes to take over more and more criminal prosecution from the states. Hoover fellow Edwin Meese III on an especially pernicious form of federal aggrandizement.

How Congress Can Rein in the Courts

by Edwin Meese IIIvia Hoover Digest
Thursday, October 30, 1997

Judges have assumed vast powers the founders never intended. The solution? Congress should assert a few powers the founders did intend. An analysis by Hoover fellow and former Attorney General of the United States Edwin L. Meese III.


with Edwin Meese III, David Friedmanvia Uncommon Knowledge
Tuesday, October 21, 1997

Edwin Meese III, former U.S. attorney general and distinguished visiting fellow, Hoover Institution, and David Friedman, professor of law, Santa Clara University, discuss how we balance the rights of our citizens with the very real needs of national security.

The Imperial Judiciary—And What Congress Can Do About It

by Edwin Meese IIIvia Policy Review
Wednesday, January 1, 1997

Unelected federal judges are using their awesome power to usurp democracy from the American people.

How Washington Subverts Your Local Sheriff

by Edwin Meese IIIvia Policy Review
Friday, March 1, 1996

The bipartisan assault on local law enforcement