Jeffrey L. Bleich

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The Honourable
Jeffrey Laurence Bleich
Amb Jeffrey Bleich 8x10.jpg
United States Ambassador to Australia
In office
November 2009 – September 2013
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Robert McCallum, Jr.
Succeeded by John Berry
Personal details
Born 1961 (age 55–56)
US 98th Army Hospital, Neubrücke, Germany
Spouse(s) Rebecca Pratt "Becky" Bleich
Children 3 (Jake, Matthew, Abby)
Profession Amherst College (B.A.)
Harvard University (M.P.P.)
UC Berkeley School of Law (J.D.)

Jeffrey Laurence "Jeff" Bleich[1] (born 1961)[2] is an American lawyer and diplomat from California, and a partner at the law firm of Dentons in San Francisco"[23]."

A longtime friend of President Barack Obama, Bleich joined the White House staff in March 2009 as Special Counsel to the President, and in 2009 was nominated by Obama to become United States Ambassador to Australia.[3] Bleich served as ambassador from 2009 to 2013. After stepping down from his post, he returned to the United States and is now a partner and group CEO at Dentons. He also serves as Chair of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. [24]

Early life and education[edit]

Bleich was born on a U.S. Army base in Germany and grew up in the U.S. state of Connecticut.[4] He graduated from Hall High School in West Hartford, Connecticut. Bleich graduated from Amherst College magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1983. Bleich was admitted to study at Harvard University but deferred for a year to take a public policy fellowship at the Coro Foundation in St. Louis, Missouri, where he became involved in juvenile justice issues. At Harvard Bleich went to the John F. Kennedy School of Government as a 1986 John F. Kennedy Fellow, graduated with a Master of Public Policy.[3][5]

Bleich attended the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and received his J.D. in 1989. He was editor-in-chief of the California Law Review and Order of the Coif.[3] In May 2011, Bleich was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from San Francisco State University.[6] In 2014, Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia awarded him the honorary Degree of Doctor of the University.[7]

Legal career[edit]

Bleich served as a law clerk to Judge Abner J. Mikva of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1989 to 1990 and to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1990 to 1991. He was legal assistant to Judge Howard M. Holtzmann of the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal at The Hague from 1991 to 1992.[5] He received a Certificate of Study in Public and Private International Law from the Hague Academy of International Law, Netherlands in 1993.

Bleich joined the Los Angeles-headquartered firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP in 1992, and was made partner three years later, in December 1995.[8] His practice there was focused primarily on general civil litigation, with emphasis on complex litigation, appellate practice, media law, communications law, and intellectual property.[5] Bleich was recognized as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in California by the Daily Journal, as California Attorney of the Year by California Lawyer, and as one of America's leading "Bet the Company" lawyers by Best Lawyers.[8]

Since 1993 he has served as an adjunct lecturer in law at Berkeley Law, teaching constitutional law and upper-level seminar courses in international human rights, habeas corpus, and appellate advocacy.[5] He was president of the San Francisco Bar Association in 2003.[5] Bleich served as president of the State Bar of California from 2007 to 2008.

Bleich was elected to the American Law Institute in 2003 and served as chair of the American Bar Association Amicus Curiae Committee from 2006-2009.[8] He also served on an ABA subcommittee on corporate social responsibility and on the ABA Section on International Law.[1] He was selected as a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations[5] and is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, the International Law Association, and a member of the Advisory Board of the American Society of International Law,[1] in addition to the Edward J. McFetridge American Inn of Court. He has written over 100 articles and served on some 20 different boards, including the boards of Human Rights Watch and Legal Community Against Violence[3] as well as the Boalt Hall Alumni Association and the Legal Aid Society of San Francisco.[5]

Bleich was a member of the board of trustees of California State University, serving a term from 2004 to 2009. He served as vice chair from 2006 to 2008 and as chair from 2008 to 2009.[5]

Involvement in politics[edit]

During the Clinton administration, Bleich served as director of the White House Council on Youth Violence, formed during the aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre.[3]

Bleich met Barack Obama almost 20 years before Bleich was nominated to become U.S. Ambassador to Australia, when Bleich tried to recruit Obama to become a law clerk to Abner Mikva. The two later became friends. Bleich was in attendance during Obama's keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and shared breakfast with him two days later.[3]

During Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, Bleich was a founding member and co-chair of Obama's national finance committee, co-chair of Obama's higher education advisory board, and California co-chair. He donated to Hillary Clinton and raised funds for her to retire her campaign's debt after the Democratic primary.[3]

Bleich joined the White House team in March 2009. Among his tasks was to address confirmation and personnel issues and to advise on other sensitive matters. He moderated a discussion on human rights in the new administration at the 2009 American Bar Association's Section of International Law Spring Meeting in April 2009.[9]

U.S. Ambassador to Australia[edit]

The Senate confirmed Bleich to be United States Ambassador to Australia in a voice vote on November 10, 2009. His diplomatic credentials were accepted by the Governor-General of Australia, Quentin Bryce, on November 24, 2009. Bleich's term in Australia was marked by the U.S. "rebalance" to the Asia-Pacific, with Australia being the focal point for that shift.[10]

Bleich joined President Obama at the announcement of the rebalance at a special sitting of Parliament in Canberra before traveling with Obama to Darwin, Northern Territory.[11] Other key achievements included overseeing record growth in trade between the U.S. and Australia, bringing the Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty into force, establishing new alliance agreements for satellites and cyber, executing a new space cooperation agreement that supported the Mars Curiosity rover landing, leading joint U.S.-Australia efforts in Afghanistan's Oruzgan province, and promoting regional efforts to reduce domestic violence.[4][12]

For his service, Bleich received numerous awards, including the highest civilian honors awarded by the Director of National Intelligence. In 2013, he received the State Department's highest award for a non-career ambassador, the Sue M. Cobb Prize for Exemplary Diplomatic Service. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating called Bleich "the best U.S. Ambassador ever sent to Australia" at the John Curtin Lecture in Perth.[13] The Australian called Bleich "Obama’s Superman."[14]

Post-diplomatic career[edit]

Following the end of his diplomatic service, Bleich rejoined the partnership at the San Francisco office of Munger, Tolles & Olson.[8] In 2016, Bleich joined Dentons LLP [15] and became group CEO.[16] Bleich's practice focuses on cybersecurity,[17] trade,[18] and international disputes, as well as on-pro bono work.,[19][20] He was selected in 2014 and 2015 as one of the leading 500 Lawyers in the U.S.[21] Serving pro bono, he obtained posthumous admission to the California Bar for a Chinese national, Hong Yen Chang, in a petition addressing the unlawful exclusion of Chinese in the 1890s, leading the Court to "right this historic wrong." [22] In 2016, he was profiled by LawDragon as one of the "rock stars" of law.[23]

Bleich continues to serve in various public roles. President Obama appointed Bleich to the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board in November 2014, where he was later elected Vice-Chair and then Chair.[24] Governor Jerry Brown of California appointed Bleich to the Governor's International Trade and Investment Advisory Council.[25] He serves on various boards including RAND Australia,[26] the Pratt Advisory Board,[27] Futures Without Violence,[28] the American Security Project,[29] and Stanford's Center for the Advanced Study of Behavioral Sciences.[30]

Family and personal life[edit]

Bleich's wife is Rebecca Pratt "Becky" Bleich,[1] and they have three children, Jake, Matthew and Abby. He collects Elvis Presley memorabilia.[3]

Bleich is a baseball fan who represents Willie Mays and serves on the Board of the Say Hey Foundation.,[31] In Australia, he regularly attended home games of the Canberra Cavalry Australian Baseball League team, normally in association with the American-Australian Association.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Media related to Jeff Bleich at Wikimedia Commons

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Robert McCallum, Jr.
United States Ambassador to Australia
Succeeded by
John Berry