Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Receives New York State Bar Association’s Highest Honor

By Rebecca Melnitsky

January 19, 2024

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Receives New York State Bar Association’s Highest Honor


By Rebecca Melnitsky

Gold Medal Award honoree Jeh Johnson and New York State Bar Association President Richard Lewis.

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson was feted at a black-tie Presidential Gala January 18th at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City where he received the New York State Bar Association’s highest honor, the Gold Medal Award.

“I’ve tried to be a good member of the New York State Bar,” Johnson told the hundreds of lawyers and guests attending the gala. “I tried to be a good public servant. I tried to be a good husband, a good father, a good son, a good friend and a good mentor. I think that’s what it’s all about for all of us, all of us very accomplished people in this room. Even though we win cases, we become judges, we hear distinguished cases, we occupy positions of importance, it’s all about having a good life.”

Johnson served as a co-chair of the association’s Task Force on Advancing Diversity, which provided a path forward for diversity, equity and inclusion programs at universities, graduate schools, businesses, and courts only a few short months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina were unconstitutional.

In 2020, then-Chief Judge Janet DiFiore appointed Johnson as an independent monitor to assess equal justice in New York State’s court system. Within four months, he issued a 100-page report recommending significant changes to promote equality. In the three years since, many of these recommendations have been adopted.

A graduate of Morehouse College (cum laude) and Columbia University Law School, Johnson served as secretary of Homeland Security from 2013 to 2017. Before that, he was general counsel of the Department of Defense (2009-2012), general counsel of the Department of the Air Force (1998-2001) and an assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of New York (1989-1991).

He has been affiliated with Paul, Weiss since 1984 and was elected as its first African American partner in 1993. He is the co-chair of the firm’s Cybersecurity and Data Protection practice, and advises high-tech companies, private equity firms and government contractors on the legal aspects of cybersecurity, national security, data privacy, government relations, crisis management, high-stakes litigation and regulatory matters.

Johnson also serves as a trustee of Columbia University and is a member of the board of directors for Lockheed Martin, U.S. Steel and MetLife.

Johnson joins a distinguished group of legal icons who have been honored with the Gold Medal Award, including Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Thurgood Marshall, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Robert H. Jackson, William J. Brennan, Jr., Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Potter Stewart, Felix Frankfurter, Robert H. Jackson, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and civil rights attorney Sherrilyn Ifill.

Listen to this Miranda Warnings podcast “Obama, Trump, Russia, Immigration, Leadership & Security” with guest Jeh Johnson.

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