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Press Release

Jim Johnson Joins the Brennan Center as Senior Fellow

Jim Johnson, former Clinton administration official and Brennan Center Board Chair, joins the Center as Senior Fellow.

February 6, 2018

New York, N.Y. – The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law announced the appointment today of Jim Johnson as a Senior Fellow. An attorney, political candidate, and former Clinton administration official, Johnson is a former Chair of the Brennan Center Board and a national leader on issues of justice and democracy.

“We’re delighted to have Jim join the Brennan Center in this new role,” said Michael Waldman, the organization’s president.“ During his decade and half of service on the Brennan Center Board, including seven years as Chair, we benefitted from Jim’s rare talents. He combines high-level government service in law enforcement, keen legal skill as a leader of one of New York’s top law firms, and a singular passion for justice. Under his leadership, the Center’s impact, profile, and funding grew significantly. As a Senior Fellow, Jim will continue to write, speak, and passionately advance our work in promoting a more just society.”

Earlier in his career, Johnson held several senior positions in the Department of the Treasury, including Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement. He also served the Department of Justice as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, where he rose to Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division. Returning to private practice, he was a partner at the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton. And most recently, he ran for the Democratic nomination in New Jersey’s 2017 gubernatorial election.

During his years on the Brennan Center Board, Johnson partnered with staff on several important initiatives, including expanding the organization’s work on criminal justice reform. With his energetic engagement, the Center’s initiative to end mass incarceration has become a national force for change. He led efforts to persuade the U.S. Attorney General to change the way federal funds are used so they bolster drug treatment and alternatives to incarceration, while focusing on dangerous crimes. He also helped found the group Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration. Launched in 2016, the Brennan Center project unites over 200 current and former police chiefs, sheriffs, federal and state prosecutors, and attorneys general from all 50 states as a powerful new voice for criminal justice reform. Serving on the group’s steering committee, Johnson continues to play an active role growing its membership and guiding its work. Johnson also litigated a key voting rights case, Johnson v. Bush. In that lawsuit, filed in 2000, he represented 600,000 African American citizens in Florida challenging the state’s permanent disenfranchisement of people with felony convictions, a law first crafted in the Jim Crow era. The case exposed the law’s racist roots and help lead to major reforms in Florida.

“This is a happy homecoming for me,” said Johnson. “The Brennan Center set a new path for striking unlikely alliances and breaking down silos among law enforcement professionals and the communities that they serve. As a Senior Fellow, I am delighted to continue this important work.”

Over his distinguished career, Johnson has also been a leader on fair housing, the right to vote, community policing, and civil rights. He starts his Senior Fellowship today.