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 the legal adviser to the Secretary of Defense.
Mr. Johnson’s legal career has been a mixture of private practice and distinguished public service. Mr. Johnson 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, 1989-1991, 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 Clinton appointed Mr. Johnson to be General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force following nomination and confirmation by the Senate. He served in that position for 27 months and returned 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 2001-2004, he chaired the Judiciary Committee of the New York City Bar Association, which rates and approves all the 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 was also on the Board of Governors of the Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.
In January 2007, Mr. Johnson was one of seven nominated by the New York State Commission on Judicial Nominations to be Chief Judge of New York State. The governor reappointed the incumbent, Judith Kaye, though Mr. Johnson was rated well qualified for the position by the New York State Bar Association.
In early 2007, Mr. Johnson was recruited by Senator Barack Obama to become part of the Senator’s presidential campaign. For the next 21 months, Mr. Johnson was involved in the campaign as an advisor on national security and foreign policy matters, and as a member of the campaign’s national finance committee. During that time, Mr. Johnson also made numerous surrogate TV appearances for the campaign on MSNBC, Fox, NBC and other networks.
Following the election, Mr. Johnson served on President-Elect Obama’s transition team, and was then publicly designated by the President-Elect 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, and 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.