John Bellinger heads the firm's Global Law and Public Policy practice. He joined the firm in 2009, after holding several senior Presidential appointments in the US government, including as the Senate-confirmed Legal Adviser to 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.
Mr. Bellinger represents individuals, corporations, and sovereign governments in litigation in US courts and before international institutions. He has extensive experience in US foreign relations litigation involving the Alien Tort Statute, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, the Anti-Terrorism Act, and the diplomatic and official immunities of foreign governments and government officials. He advises clients on other public international law matters, including treaties and international agreements as well as international humanitarian law and human rights law. He also counsels US and foreign clients on national security legal and policy issues, including US and multilateral financial sanctions and asset controls, the extraterritorial application of US criminal and civil laws, and transactions reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
Chambers Global ranks Mr. Bellinger 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."
Mr. Bellinger was the State Department Legal Adviser–the most senior international lawyer in the US Government–from 2005 to 2009, serving under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He directed more than 170 lawyers on domestic and international law matters affecting US foreign relations. Before joining the State Department, Mr. Bellinger managed Secretary Rice's Senate confirmation process and co-directed her State Department transition team. In 2009, Mr. Bellinger received the Secretary of State's Distinguished Service Award.
Mr. Bellinger has argued cases before the International Court of Justice (Mexico v. United States–(Medellin)) and the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal in The Hague. He has appeared on numerous briefs in US federal courts, including the Supreme Court, in litigation involving international law issues.
As Legal Adviser to the NSC from 2001 to 2005, Mr. Bellinger advised President Bush, Cabinet officials, National Security Advisor Rice, and NSC staff on a wide range of national security and international law issues, including counterterrorism issues after the 9-11 attacks. He was one of the principal drafters of the legislation that created the Director of National Intelligence.
Prior to his service in the Bush Administration, Mr. Bellinger served as Counsel for National Security Matters in the Criminal Division at the US Department of Justice (1997-2001); Of Counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (1996); General Counsel of the Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the US Intelligence Community (1995-1996); and Special Assistant to Director of Central Intelligence William Webster (1988-1991). Mr. Bellinger is an Adjunct Senior Fellow in International and National Security Law at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has testified before Congress on numerous occasions, is quoted regularly in the media on international and national security law matters, and has lectured at numerous US and foreign universities and law schools. He is the author of many law review articles and op-eds on international law, including op-eds in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Bellinger is a senior contributor to the Lawfare blog.
Mr. Bellinger is a member of the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on International Law. He served from 2005-2019 as one of four US Members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and a member of the US "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.
Mr. Bellinger is a graduate of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and he holds an MA in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia and a JD from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard International Law Journal.
- As counsel for Government of Israel, secured dismissal of lawsuits against senior Israeli judges and government officials in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, California, Wisconsin, and New York under the Alien Tort Statute and other statutes.
- As counsel for the Government of Israel, argued before the DC Circuit and secured dismissal of a lawsuit against the State of Israel filed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (D.D.C. and D.C. Circuit).
- As counsel for 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.).
- Representing the Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais in a lawsuit filed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (N.D. Ill.).
- Representing General Electric Company in Cooper v. Tokyo Electric Power Company – litigation arising out of the Fukushima nuclear incident (S.D. Cal.).
- Representing General Electric Company in Atchley v Astrazeneca – litigation relating to the activities of certain healthcare companies in Iraq (D.D.C.).
- Prepared a brief for the Seventh Circuit on behalf of the US Chamber of Commerce as amicus curiae in the Alien Tort Statute case of Flomo v. Firestone.
- Prepared a brief for the Ninth Circuit on behalf of the National Foreign Trade Council and other trade associations as amici curiae in Carijano v. Occidental Petroleum (involving forum non conveniens).
- Prepared a brief for the Ninth Circuit on behalf of the National Foreign Trade Council and other trade associations as amici curiae in the Alien Tort Statute case of Bauman v. DaimlerChrysler.
- Prepared two briefs for the US Supreme Court on behalf of BP USA, Caterpillar, ConocoPhillips, General Electric, Honeywell, IBM, and Monsanto as amici curiae in the Alien Tort Statute case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum.
- Testified on behalf of the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments.
- Prepared a brief for the DC Circuit on behalf of the Government of Colombia asserting immunity on behalf of the former President of Colombia in connection with a subpoena for testimony in Giraldo v. Drummond Company.
- Advised the former President of a Latin American country on immunity issues in connection with an Alien Tort Statute suit.
- Represented the current President of a South Asian country on immunity issues in connection with a suit under the Alien Tort Statute.
- Advised European state-owned banks on immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act in US criminal proceedings.
- Serve as adviser on transnational litigation to the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform.
- JD, Harvard Law School, 1986, cum laude
- MA, University of Virginia, 1991
- AB, Princeton University, 1982, cum laude
- District of Columbia
- Senior Associate Counsel to the President and Legal Adviser
Legal Adviser, US Department of State
Counsel for National Security Matters, Criminal Division, US Department of Justice
Of Counsel, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
General Counsel of the Commission on the Roles and Capabilities, US Intelligence Community
Special Assistant to Director (William Webster), Central Intelligence Agency
- Member and Adjunct Senior Fellow in International and National Security Law, Council on Foreign Relations
- Member and Member of Council, 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
- Member, Board of Trustees, American Ditchley Foundation
- 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, Lake Chiemsee, 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, DC (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
- Trustee, Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation