Honorable Jeh Charles Johnson '82
General Counsel, Department of Defense
Jeh Charles Johnson was appointed general counsel of the Department of Defense on February 10, 2009, following nomination and confirmation by the U.S. Senate. In this capacity, he serves as the chief legal officer of the Department of Defense and as the legal adviser to the secretary of defense.
Mr. Johnson’s legal career has been a mixture of private practice and distinguished public service. He began his career in public service as an assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York, where he prosecuted public corruption cases. From 1989 to 1991, as a federal prosecutor, Mr. Johnson tried 12 cases and argued 11 appeals.
Mr. Johnson built upon his early career as an assistant United States Attorney to become a successful trial lawyer in private practice at the New York City–based law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. While at Paul Weiss, he personally tried some of the highest-stakes commercial cases of modern times for corporate clients such as Armstrong World Industries, Citigroup, and Salomon Smith Barney. In 2004, Mr. Johnson was elected a fellow in the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers.
In October 1998, President Bill Clinton appointed Mr. Johnson to serve as general counsel of the Department of the Air Force, following nomination and confirmation by the Senate. He held that position for 27 months before returning to private law practice at Paul Weiss in January 2001.
While in private practice, Mr. Johnson was active in numerous civil and professional activities. From 2001 to 2004, he chaired the New York City Bar Association’s judiciary committee, which rates and approves all federal, state, and local judges in New York City. Mr. Johnson is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and was a director or trustee of Adelphi University, the Federal Bar Council, the New York Community Trust, the Fund for Modern Courts, the Legal Aid Society, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the New York City Bar Fund, Inc., the Vera Institute, the New York Hall of Science, and the Film Society of Lincoln Theater. He also served on the board of governors for the Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.
Following the 2008 election, Mr. Johnson worked on President-Elect Obama’s transition team. The president-elect publicly designated Mr. Johnson for nomination to the position of general counsel of the Department of Defense on January 8, 2009, followed by formal nomination on January 20, 2009. He received confirmation by the Senate on February 9, 2009.
Mr. Johnson is a member in good standing of the bars of New York state and the District of Columbia.
Lawyering for the Defense Department and the National Command Authority
November 2, 2010, 4:30 - 5:30 PM
Columbia Law School, Jerome Greene Hall 103