John Bellinger is the co-chair of the firm's Global Law and Public Policy group. A globally recognized expert on international law, he joined the firm in 2009, after serving as the Senate-confirmed Legal Adviser for the Department of State and Senior Associate Counsel to the President and Legal Adviser to the National Security Council (NSC) at the White House in the George W. Bush Administration.
John assists a broad range of U.S. and non-U.S. clients to resolve complex and politically sensitive issues and international legal disputes in the United States and around the world. His clients include corporations, sovereign governments, international organizations, universities, government officials, and private individuals.
Chambers Global ranks John among the best international lawyers in the world, reporting that he has "second-to-none experience in public international law, international litigation and foreign sovereign immunity" and that his "experience at the highest levels of the Executive branch...gives him a distinct and important vantage point on legal issues." Chambers adds: "For any cross border work he's just extraordinary, he knows the area inside-out."
He has represented numerous clients in lawsuits in federal courts, involving the Alien Tort Statute, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, the Anti-Terrorism Act, the Helms Burton Act, and other U.S. foreign relations laws. He is frequently consulted by sovereign governments for advice and assistance on diplomatic and government official immunity as well as other public international law matters. John has represented numerous former U.S. government officials and foreign governments in sensitive investigations conducted by the Department of Justice and congressional committees. He also advises clients on many other national security legal and policy issues, including U.S. financial sanctions, investments reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, and the extraterritorial application of U.S. criminal and civil laws. He has represented the families and employers of several U.S. hostages and wrongfully detained persons.
As State Department Legal Adviser from 2005 to 2009, John was the most senior international lawyer in the U.S. Government, serving under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He directed more than 170 lawyers on domestic and international law matters affecting U.S. foreign relations. He represented the United States in cases before the International Court of Justice (Mexico v. United States–(Medellin)) and the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal and appeared on numerous briefs in the Supreme Court and other federal courts in litigation involving international law issues.
Before joining the State Department, John managed Secretary Rice's Senate confirmation process and co-directed her State Department transition team. In 2009, John received the Secretary of State's Distinguished Service Award.
As Legal Adviser to the NSC from 2001 to 2005, John advised President Bush, Cabinet officials, the National Security Advisor, and NSC staff on a broad spectrum of sensitive national security and international law issues. He worked closely with senior lawyers and officials of the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Treasury, and Homeland Security as well as with U.S. intelligence agencies.
John previously served in the U.S. Government as Counsel for National Security Matters in the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice; Of Counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; General Counsel of the Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the U.S. Intelligence Community; and Special Assistant to Director of Central Intelligence William Webster.
John is an Adjunct Senior Fellow in International and National Security Law at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has testified before Senate and House committees on many occasions, is interviewed regularly by U.S. and foreign television, radio, and print media on international and U.S. national security law matters, and has lectured at more than two dozen U.S. and foreign universities and law schools. He is the author of numerous law review articles and op-eds on international law, including op-eds in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Politico. John is a senior contributor to the Lawfare blog.
John is a member of the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on International Law. He is one of four U.S. Members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and a member of the U.S. "National Group", which nominates judges to the International Court of Justice. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Society of International Law. He is a member of the Council of the American Law Institute; the boards of directors of the American Ditchley Foundation, the Salzburg Global Seminar, and the Stimson Center; and the advisory committee of Foreign Affairs magazine.
John is a graduate of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and he holds an M.A. in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia and a J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard International Law Journal.
- As counsel for the Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais, the French national railroad, argued before the 7th Circuit and secured dismissal of a lawsuit filed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act relating to its activities during World War II (N.D. Ill. and 7th Cir. 2021).
- As counsel for the Government of Israel, argued before the D.C. Circuit and secured dismissal of a lawsuit filed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (D.D.C. and D.C. Circuit 2017).
- As counsel for the Government of Israel, secured dismissal of more than 15 separate lawsuits against Israeli government officials in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, California, and Wisconsin filed under the Alien Tort Statute and other statutes.
- As counsel for the Government of Colombia, prepared a brief successfully asserting immunity on behalf of the former President of Colombia in connection with a subpoena for testimony (D.C. Circuit).
- As counsel for the Government of Israel, secured dismissal of subpoena issued to a former Israeli national security official in Wultz v. Bank of China (D.D.C. and S.D.N.Y.).
- Represented the President of a South Asian country on immunity issues in connection with a suit under the Alien Tort Statute.
- As counsel for a senior diplomat of a Persian Gulf country, secured dismissal of a lawsuit relating to the diplomat’s prior business activities on the basis of diplomatic immunity.
- Representing General Electric Health Care in Atchley v AstraZeneca in a lawsuit under the Anti-Terrorism Act relating to the sale of medical equipment to the Iraqi Ministry of Health (D.D.C.).
- Representing a foreign sovereign wealth fund in a lawsuit under RICO (D.D.C.).
- Represented European state-owned banks on issues relating to sovereign immunity in an investigation by the Department of Justice.
- Prepared more than a dozen amicus curiae briefs on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Foreign Trade Council, and other trade associations in the U.S. Supreme Court, D.C. Circuit, and Ninth Circuit in various lawsuits relating to the international business activities of U.S. companies under the Alien Tort Statute, Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and other U.S. laws.
- Represented former State Department Legal Advisers as amici curiae in the Supreme Court in United States v. Bond.
- Serve as adviser on transnational litigation to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform.
- M.A., University of Virginia, 1991
- J.D., Harvard Law School, 1986, cum laude
- A.B., Princeton University, 1982, cum laude
- District of Columbia
Government & Military Service
- Senior Associate Counsel to the President and Legal Adviser to the National Security Council, The White House
Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State
Counsel for National Security Matters, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice
Of Counsel, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
General Counsel of the Commission on the Roles and Capabilities, U.S. Intelligence Community
Special Assistant to Director (William Webster), Central Intelligence Agency
- Member, Homeland Intelligence Experts Group, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Member and Adjunct Senior Fellow in International and National Security Law, Council on Foreign Relations
- Member and Member of Council and Executive Committee, American Law Institute
- Counselor, American Law Institute's Restatement Fourth of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States
- Member, Board of Directors, The Stimson Center
- Member, Board of Directors, Salzburg Global Seminar
- Vice Chairman, American Ditchley Foundation
- Member, Board of Directors, Association of Diplomatic Studies & Training
- Member of Advisory Committee, Foreign Affairs magazine
- Member, American Council on Germany
- Ex officio member, International Judicial Relations Committee, 2006-2009 (appointed by Chief Justice Roberts)
- Fellow, British-American Project
- Selected as Young Leader, Transatlantic Forum, BMW-Herbert Quandt Stiftung, Germany, 2001
- Member, American Society of International Law
- Member, Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Public International Law
- Member, Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague
- Selected as Young Leader, European Union Visitors Programme, Brussels, 1999
- Selected as Young Leader, American Council on Germany/Atlantik-Brucke Young Leader Conference, Hamburg, Germany, 1997
- Member, Board of Governors, St. Albans School, Washington, D.C. (1997-2004; Vice Chairman, 2002-2003; Chairman, Governance Committee, 2002-2004)
- Member of Vestry (1991-1994) and Senior Warden (1993-1994), St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Arlington, VA
- Member, Advisory Board, Princeton Scholars in the Nations Service Initiative
- Member, Advisory Committee, St. Albans School of Public Service, 2002–2022
- Trustee, Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation, 2010–2014