Robert C. Bonner

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Robert C. Bonner
Judge Robert Bonner Visits the CBP Advanced Training Center (cropped).jpg
Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Department of Homeland Security
In office
March 1, 2003 – November 30, 2005
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Ralph Basham
Commissioner, U.S. Customs Service
Department of the Treasury
In office
September 10, 2001 – March 1, 2003
Preceded by Raymond W. Kelly
Succeeded by Office abolished
Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California
In office
May 24, 1989 – August 12, 1990
Appointed by George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Pamela Ann Rymer
Succeeded by Audrey B. Collins
Personal details
Born (1942-01-29) January 29, 1942 (age 74)
Wichita, Kansas, USA
Nationality U.S.
Political party Republican
Alma mater Georgetown University Law School (J.D.) 1966
University of Maryland, College Park (B.A.) 1963
Profession Attorney
Website Biography at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP website

Robert Cleve Bonner (born January 29, 1942) is an American former prosecutor, former federal judge, former Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and former Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the California Institute of Technology and former Chair of the California Commission on Judicial Performance.


Judge Bonner was born in Wichita, Kansas. He grew up in Wichita where his father practiced law and his mother was a school teacher. He credits his mother for infusing him with a strong commitment to public service. He received a B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1963 and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1966.[1] He was a law clerk for Albert Lee Stephens, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California from 1966 to 1967. He was on active duty in the U.S. Navy’s Judge Advocate General Corps from 1967-1971, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, USNR. During that time, he served for nearly two years on an aircraft carrier, the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42). He was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California from 1971 to 1975, and then went into private practice in Los Angeles for nine years. Afterwards he became the U.S. Attorney for the same district in 1984.[1] As a U.S. Attorney, he worked closely with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on two record-breaking money laundering cases, Operations Pisces and Polar Cap, and had led the prosecution team against the killers of a DEA special agent.[2]

On February 28, 1989, Bonner was nominated by President George H. W. Bush to be a federal judge for California's Central District, to a seat vacated by Pamela Ann Rymer. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 18, 1989, and received commission on May 24, 1989. Judge Bonner resigned on August 12, 1990, to be reassigned to a new position,[1] and on May 11, 1990, President Bush nominated him to be Administrator of the DEA. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 27, 1990, and sworn in as the DEA's fifth Administrator on August 13, 1990. Bonner served as Administrator from August 16, 1990, to October 31, 1993.[3] Bonner signed the DEA's 1992 political denial of the legitimacy of medical cannabis, incorrectly stating that "no responsible physician could conclude that marijuana is safe and effective for medical use";[4] since that time, thousands of responsible physicians have done so. His ruling has caused thousands of patients to be arrested, prosecuted and jailed since that time.

In November 1993, just after leaving his post as head of the DEA, Judge Bonner appeared on 60 Minutes and criticized the CIA for permitting a drug shipment of one ton of pure cocaine to be smuggled into the U.S. without first notifying and securing the approval of the DEA.

From 1993 to 2001, Judge Bonner was a partner in the Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, an international law firm. His practice focused on business and white-collar crime matters, complex civil cases, internal corporate investigations, and corporate compliance programs.[2] Among his clients were ConAgra, Waste Management, Occidental Petroleum Chairman Ray Irani, the University of Southern California, and the City of Thousand Oaks. He defended Heidi Fleiss in her federal tax evasion prosecution and prosecuted the first FBI Agent charged with espionage.

On June 24, 2001, President George W. Bush nominated Judge Bonner as Commissioner of the United States Customs Service, later known as U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He announced his resignation from that position on September 28, 2005, having served four years which included the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the transfer of the Customs Service to that department, and retired on November 25, 2005.[2]

He is now (again) a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. In 2006 he was hired by Representative Jerry Lewis, who has been linked to an investigation being conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice (see Jerry Lewis - Lowery lobbying firm controversy). On August 12, 2007, he was named by the Rudy Giuliani Presidential Committee as a member of the campaign's "Immigration Advisory Board".[5]

On June 4, 2009, Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano appointed him to the Homeland Security Advisory Council's Southwest Border Task Force. He is currently the Senior Principal of Sentinel, a Washington, D.C.-based homeland security consulting firm.

Bonner is the co-chair of a private task force on U.S.‑Mexico border issues that has called for a federal ban on many semi-automatic firearms.[6]

Bonner, who runs three miles a day, enjoys playing tennis and chess, a game he says he mastered while serving in the U.S. Navy on board an aircraft carrier.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ a b c Biography at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
  3. ^ Robert C. Bonner: Fifth DEA Administrator, DEA History
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Rudy Giuliani Presidential Committee Press Release
  6. ^ Spencer S. Hsu (2009-11-13). "Task force seeks ban on assault weapons". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
John C. Lawn
Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration
Succeeded by
Stephen H. Greene (acting)
Legal offices
Preceded by
Pamela Ann Rymer
Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California
Succeeded by
Audrey B. Collins