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NEW YORK, January 12, 2009 — Columbia Law School alumnus Jeh C. Johnson ’82 has been selected by President-elect Barack Obama as the nominee for general counsel of the Department of Defense. This post is the chief legal officer for the largest department of government in the world. Johnson is a litigation partner at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and served as general counsel for the Air Force during President Clinton’s second term.
Johnson brings decades of experience in both the private and public sectors. He began his trial lawyer career in 1989 as an assistant United States attorney in the Southern District of New York, where for three years he prosecuted public corruption cases.
In 1994 he became a partner at Paul, Weiss, where he stayed until 1998, when President Clinton appointed him general counsel of the Department of the Air Force. During his 27-month tenure, he served as chief legal officer and one of the civilian leaders of a military department of 1,700 lawyers and 500,000 personnel. Johnson was awarded the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service.
Since his return to Paul, Weiss, Johnson has tried some of the highest stakes commercial cases in recent years. These include the successful representation in 2005 of Citigroup in defense of a $900 million arbitration claim, the second largest ever filed with the National Association of Securities Dealers.
Johnson taught at the Law School as a lecturer-in-law in trial practice from 1995 to 1997. At age 47, he was elected a fellow in the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Law Institute and has been active in numerous professional and community activities. He received his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College in 1979.
Johnson, whose appointment is subject to U.S. Senate confirmation, would succeed William J. Haynes II, who resigned from the Department of Defense in February of 2008. Daniel J. Dell’Orto has since served as acting general counsel.
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