Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to Receive New York State Bar Association’s Highest Honor at Gala

By Rebecca Melnitsky

October 2, 2023

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to Receive New York State Bar Association’s Highest Honor at Gala


By Rebecca Melnitsky

Jeh Johnson, the former secretary of homeland security, will receive the New York State Bar Association’s Gold Medal Award, its highest honor, at the association’s Presidential Gala Jan. 18 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

“Jeh has been a leader in diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Richard Lewis, president of the New York State Bar Association. “After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on affirmative action in June, colleges, law schools, law firms and the courts were left scrambling. But under Jeh’s leadership, the Task Force on Advancing Diversity produced a detailed report in record time, providing much-needed guidance and making sure that legal diversity programs were not dismantled.”

The Presidential Gala is one of the highlights of NYSBA’s 147th Annual Meeting, which takes place Jan. 16 to 20 at the New York Hilton Midtown. The association’s premier event, the Presidential Summit, will focus on “AI and the Legal Landscape: Navigating the Ethical, Regulatory and Practical Challenges.” For more information on NYSBA’s Annual Meeting, click here.

Tickets and table reservations for the gala are already on sale. To buy tickets, reserve tables or sponsor the program, visit or email [email protected].

During the Presidential Gala, which will be black tie-optional, Danny Jonokuchi & The Revisionists will perform. The band, dubbed “today’s premier swing band” by BroadwayWorld, was the unanimous winner of the inaugural Count Basie Great American Swing Contest. A silent auction to raise funds for the New York Bar Foundation’s legal services programs will begin on Jan. 8 and continue live at the gala.

About Jeh Johnson

Johnson serves as a co-chair of the association’s Task Force on Advancing Diversity, which provided a path forward for diversity, equity and inclusion programs in 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 equal justice. 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.

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