James Johnson is an of counsel who retired from the partnership of the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton in March of 2016 and has focused his efforts on social justice issues. He has held several senior positions in the United States Department of the Treasury, including Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement (1998-2000) and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement (1996-1998). He oversaw the operations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the Secret Service; the United States Customs Service; the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center; the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network; and the Office of Foreign Assets Control. In total, Johnson also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (1990-1996), where he rose to Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division (1993-1996).
Johnson has received numerous awards for his service and accomplishments in both private practice and public service. He is the recipient of the Alexander Hamilton Award (the Department of Treasury’s highest award, given to officials for excellence in service) and the Attorney General’s Certificate for Excellence in Prosecution. In 2003, Johnson was named to Black Enterprise’s List of the Nation’s Top Black Lawyers and to Crain’s New York Business’s List of Most Powerful Minorities. Johnson was recently elected as a member of the Harvard College Board of Overseers. He is former Chair of the Board of the Brennan Center for Justice and is also a trustee of the Montclair Art Museum.
Johnson joined Debevoise in 1987 and rejoined in 2004 as a partner. He served as a law clerk to the Hon. Robert E. Keeton, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts (1986-1987). He received his J.D. cum laude in 1986 from Harvard Law School, where he contributed to the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, and received his A.B. cum laude from Harvard College in 1983.