Steven G. Bradbury

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Steven G. Bradbury is an attorney at the Washington, D.C office of Dechert LLP.

Bradbury was head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in the United States Department of Justice during the George W. Bush administration. Appointed the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for OLC in April 2004, he became the Acting Assistant Attorney General in 2005. He was nominated by President George W. Bush to be the Assistant Attorney General for OLC in June 2005. His nomination was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in November 2005 but was never voted on by the full Senate. Individual Democratic Senators put holds on Bradbury's nomination preventing the full Senate from voting on it, and Democratic leaders in the Senate instituted pro forma sessions of the Senate during scheduled recesses to prevent the President from giving him a recess appointment.[1] Bradbury continued to serve as the senior appointed official in charge of OLC until the end of the Bush Administration on January 20, 2009.

Work in the Office of Legal Counsel[edit]

Bradbury received a number of awards and honors while at OLC, including the Edmund J. Randolph Award for outstanding service to the Department of Justice, the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, the National Security Agency’s Intelligence Under Law Award, the Director of National Intelligence’s Intelligence Community Legal Award, and the Criminal Division’s Award for Outstanding Law Enforcement Partnerships.

Bradbury authored numerous significant legal opinions for OLC, many of which are published on OLC’s Web site.[2] Among these opinions was one issued in August 2004 in which Bradbury concluded that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution secures an individual right to keep and bear arms.[3] The reasoning of this opinion was later adopted by the Supreme Court of the United States in District of Columbia v. Heller.[4]

Memoranda concerning the War on Terror[edit]

Bradbury authored several memoranda addressing the legality of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" – actions widely considered to be torture – which were authorized for use by the Central Intelligence Agency, including three memoranda in May 2005, publicly released by the Obama Administration on April 16, 2009, that found the CIA's practices to be lawful if applied in accordance with specified conditions, limitations, and safeguards, including those set forth in the agency’s interrogation procedures.[5]

Near the end of the Bush Administration, Bradbury signed two memoranda for the files explaining that during his tenure OLC had determined that certain legal propositions previously stated in ten OLC opinions issued between 2001 and 2003 concerning executive power in the War on Terror no longer reflected the views of OLC and "should not be treated as authoritative for any purpose" and further explaining that some of the underlying opinions had been withdrawn or superseded and that "caution should be exercised" by the Executive Branch "before relying in other respects" on the other opinions that had not been superseded or withdrawn.[6][7]


Bradbury was born in 1958 in Portland, Oregon, the youngest of four children. His father died when he was 11 months old, and his mother raised him by working nights and ironing clothes for 75 cents an hour to supplement their Social Security income. He attended Washington High School in Portland from 1972 to 1976 where he was student body president his senior year.[8] Bradbury was the first in his family to graduate from college. He graduated from Stanford University in 1980 with a major in English. After working in publishing and as a legal assistant in New York in the early 1980s, Bradbury graduated from the University of Michigan Law School, where he received his J.D., magna cum laude, in 1988. He was Article Editor for the Michigan Law Review and Order of the Coif.

From 1988 to 1990, Bradbury worked as an associate at Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C. In 1990-1991, he served as a law clerk to Judge James L. Buckley on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. After working as an Attorney-Adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel, 1991-1992, he served as a law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court of the United States, 1992-1993.[9]

Following his clerkship for Justice Thomas, Bradbury practiced law with Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Washington, D.C., first as an associate from 1993 to 1994 and then as a partner from 1994 to 2004. In 1998, Bradbury was named one of the top 40 lawyers under 40 by Washingtonian magazine.[10] In his law practice at Kirkland & Ellis, he focused on antitrust (both mergers and litigation), securities law (including both class action litigation and regulatory investigations), and various other regulatory, constitutional, and commercial litigation matters, both at the trial and appellate levels. In April 2004, Bradbury left private practice to join OLC as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General under Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith.

Following his term in OLC, Bradbury returned to private practice as a partner at Dechert LLP in Washington, D.C., where he specializes in antitrust, securities litigation, general commercial litigation, and appellate matters.[11]


  1. ^ "Webb opens, closes vacant Senate session". CNN. December 26, 2007. 
  2. ^ Office of Legal Counsel. "Memoranda and Opinions". United States Department of Justice. Archived from the original on 2009-04-22. 
  3. ^ Steven G. Bradbury, Howard C. Nielson, Jr., C. Kevin Marshall (2004-08-24). "WHETHER THE SECOND AMENDMENT SECURES AN INDIVIDUAL RIGHT: MEMORANDUM OPINION FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL" (PDF). Office of Legal Counsel. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-04-22. 
  4. ^ See 554 U.S. ___, 128 S. Ct. 2753 (2008). A review of the opinion for the Court in Heller reveals that it closely tracks the August 2004 OLC opinion in both the structure and substance of its legal analysis. The OLC opinion featured prominently in the amicus brief filed by the United States in Heller.
  5. ^ Mark Mazzetti; Scott Shane (April 16, 2009). "Interrogation Memos Detail Harsh Tactics by the C.I.A.". The New York Times. Retrieved April 17, 2009. 
  6. ^ "Department of Justice Releases Nine Office of Legal Counsel Memoranda and Opinions". United States Department of Justice. 2009-03-09. Archived from the original on 2009-04-22. 
  7. ^ "Office of Legal Counsel Memoranda". United States Department of Justice. Archived from the original on 2009-04-22. 
  8. ^ Duin, Steve (April 24, 2008). "Once upon a time at WaHi". The Oregonian. Retrieved March 24, 2010. 
  9. ^ article
  10. ^ Washingtonian (Sept. 1998), pp. 120-21.
  11. ^ "Dechert LLP Lawyer Profile: Steven Bradbury". Dechert LLP. 

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