Steffen Johnson joined the firm in 2005 as a litigation partner in the Washington, D.C. office and a founding member of the firm’s nationwide appellate and critical motions practice. He concentrates his practice on appellate proceedings of all kinds, on the preparation of high-risk cases for eventual appeal, and on motions that may prove critical to the outcome of a case at the trial court level. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America, a peer-review survey of more than 2.8 million confidential evaluations, for his experience in appellate litigation. And he has been named to the Legal Times’ and National Law Journal’s prestigious “‘40 Under 40’ Washington’s Rising Stars” list, which every four years highlights 40 lawyers in the Washington metropolitan area younger than 40 who, they predict, will play a major role in the nation’s legal community.
Mr. Johnson has extensive experience in complex appellate, commercial, and constitutional litigation. He has personally argued in the Supreme Court of the United States, and he has served as counsel in nearly 50 cases before the Court, including several cases in which he has represented parties at the merits stage. For example, he recently served as counsel of record for the prevailing petitioners in Caraco Pharmaceuticals v. Novo Nordisk A/S, 132 S. Ct. 1670 (2012), the Supreme Court’s first-ever case involving the drug competition provisions of the Hatch-Waxman Act. He has also briefed and argued numerous cases in the lower federal and state appellate courts, including several federal circuits.
Mr. Johnson’s practice spans a wide range of substantive areas, including class actions, patents, pharmaceuticals, preemption, punitive damages, products liability, antitrust, accountant liability, securities, labor and employment, telecommunications, environmental, property rights, constitutional law, the First Amendment, and religious institutions. Representative clients for which Mr. Johnson has handled matters include Caraco Pharmaceuticals, Dell Inc., Ernst & Young LLP, Abbott Labs, American Airlines, Inc., Caterpillar, Inc., Mayne Pharma (USA) Inc., and Hospira, Inc.
The following are a representative sampling of cases that Mr. Johnson has briefed or argued in the Supreme Court of the United States:
Representative U.S. Supreme Court experience:
Caraco Pharmaceutical Labs. Ltd. v. Novo Nordisk A/S, No. 10-844 (pending).
Counsel of record for petitioner Caraco in first Supreme Court case involving generic drug marketing provisions of Hatch-Waxman Act.
Holmes v. South Carolina, 547 U.S. 319 (2006).
Orally argued for 18 states as amici curiae, obtaining ruling that clarified constitutional validity of the amici states' rules on admission of third-party guilt evidence.
Kurns v. Railroad Friction Products Corp., No. 10-879 (pending).
Counsel for the amicus curiae U.S. Chamber of Commerce in case involving question whether the Locomotive Inspection Act preempts the field of state common law tort claims.
Barr Labs., Inc. v. Cancer Research Technology Ltd., No. 11-131 (pending).
Counsel for petitioner Barr Labs in case involving the patent doctrines of prosecution laches and inequitable conduct.
Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. EEOC, No. 10-553 (pending).
Counsel of record for several religious denominations as amici curiae in case challenging a ruling that the "ministerial exception" —a First Amendment rule that requires secular courts to abstain from certain employment disputes between religious institutions and their leaders—does not apply to a teacher at a religious elementary school.
PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing, Inc v. Demahy, 131 S. Ct. 2567 (2011).
Counsel of record for Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals and Impax Laboratories as amici curiae in case involving preemption of state-law failure-to-warn claims against manufacturers of generic drug products whose warnings were, as federal law requires, the same as their FDA-approved name-brand equivalents.
Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Whiting, 131 S. Ct. 1968 (2011).
Counsel for National Immigrant Justice Center in case involving whether federal immigration law preempted an Arizona statute imposing sanctions on employers who hired unauthorized aliens.
Sossamon v. Texas, 131 S. Ct. 1651 (2011).
Counsel for American Civil Liberties Union et al. as amici curiae in case involving question whether private action provision of Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act waived state sovereign immunity from suit for money damages.
Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Bd, 130 S. Ct. 3138 (2010).
Counsel of record for CATO Institute as amicus curiae in successful challenge to the constitutionality of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board as a violation of the separation of powers.
Preston v. Ferrer, 552 U.S. 346 (2008).
As counsel for amicus curiae U.S. Chamber of Commerce, advocated the prevailing position in case holding that the Federal Arbitration Act supersedes state laws lodging jurisdiction over otherwise arbitrable disputes in any non-arbitration forum, including administrative agencies.
New York State Board of Elections v. Lopez Torres, 552 U.S. 196 (2008).
As counsel for the amici curiae Mid-Manhattan Branch of the NAACP and the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, filed brief in successful defense of New York's procedure for nominating candidates for trial-court judgeships by party convention.
Philip Morris USA v. Williams, 556 U.S. 178 (2007).
As counsel for the National Association of Manufacturers, PhRMA, and other business amici advocated the winning position in a case recognizing that procedural due process principles preclude a jury from imposing punitive damages to punish the defendant for harm to non-parties.
United Haulers Assoc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Mgmt., 550 U.S. 330 (2007).
As counsel for municipal waste management agencies as amici curiae, advocated winning position in a case holding that Commerce Clause does not invalidate local waste flow control ordinances.
SAFECO Insurance Co. v. Burr, 551 U.S. 47(2007).
As counsel for amicus curiae U.S. Chamber of Commerce, advocated winning position in case involving the scope of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the availability of punitive damages for violations of that statute.
Smith v. Texas, 550 U.S. 297 (2007).
Counsel for 21 states as amici in case in which the Court adopted clients’ position that state courts need not apply federal harmless-error standards in assessing the effect of a federal-law error in the states' own courts.
Morse v. Frederick, 551 U.S. 393 (2007).
Counsel for non-profit groups dedicated to fighting substance abuse as amici curiae in a First Amendment case involving a school's discipline of a student for displaying a pro-drug message.
League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, 5458 U.S. 399 (2006)
Counsel for several state as amici curiae in case involving a constitutional challenge to the 2003 congressional redistricting by the Texas legislature, a case in which the Court re-emphasized the wide discretion enjoyed by states in establishing congressional districts.
Arbaugh v. Y& H Corp., 546 U.S. 500 (2006)
Counsel for International Municipal Lawyers Association et al. as amici curiae in case concerning whether the 15-employee requirement of Title VII was a limitation on the subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts.
Gosselin World Wide Moving, N.V. v. United States, cert. denied, 547 U.S. 1002 (2006)
Counsel for Government of Belgium as amicus curiae supporting certiorari in case involving validity of U.S. exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction under criminal antirust laws.
Sprietsma v. Mercury Marine, 537 U.S. 51 (2002)
Counsel for respondent Mercury Marine in case involving preemption of products liability claim under Federal Boat Safety Act.
Mitchell v. Helms, 530 U.S. 793 (2000)
Counsel for petitioners, obtained ruling affirming constitutionality of neutral provision of computers and other educational assistance to religious schools, overruling prior contrary precedent.
Public Lands Council v. Babbitt, 529 U.S. 728 (2000)
Counsel for petitioners in case challenging interpretation of Taylor Grazing Act regulations.
American Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40 (1999)
Counsel for petitioners, obtained ruling that private insurance companies were not state actors for purposes of decisions concerning utilization review under state workers’ compensation law.
Other representative litigation experience:
Gazprom v. Lazarenko & United States v. All Assets Held at Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd., No. 11-5139 (D.C. Cir.) (pending).
Counsel for appellant Gazprom, Russia's largest natural gas company, in action challenging United States' civil forfeiture of roughly $250 million, held in foreign bank accounts, in which Gazprom has an ownership interest.
Perius v. Abbott Labs., No. 09-2697 (7th Cir.) (pending).
Counsel for Abbott Laboratories in defense of False Claims Act case involving meaning of "protected activity" for purposes of retaliatory discharge claims.
The Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of Christ Church in Savannah v. Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, Inc., No. S10G1909 (GA. S. Ct.) (pending).
Counsel for Christ Church Savannah, the "Mother Church of Georgia," in dispute with former denomination over ownership of church property.
Casanova v. American Airlines, 616 F.3d 695 (7th Cir. 2010).
Counsel for American Airlines in appeal obtaining reversal of $1.1 million verdict in retaliatory discharge case.
Protestant Episcopal Church in Diocese of Virginia v. Truro Church, 694 S.E.2d 555 (Va. 2010).
Counsel for record for Truro Church, The Falls Church, and several other congregations in dispute over ownership of more than $60 million of church property, including the historic Falls Church, where George Washington served on the vestry.
Trudeau v. Federal Trade Commission, 606 F.3d 382 (7th Cir. 2010).
As counsel for New York Times #1 Bestselling Author Kevin Trudeau, obtained reversal of criminal contempt sanction issued on summary basis.
In re HealthSouth Corp. Securities Litigation (11th Cir. 2009) (settled).
Counsel of record for petitioner Ernst & Young in interlocutory appeal of class certification ruling in putative Rule 10b-5 securities class action involving "fraud created the market" theory.
Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC et al. v. Sandoz, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2009).
As counsel for defendants Mayne Pharma and Hospira, defeated attempt to delay FDA approval of abbreviated new drug application by issuance of a “stay pending appeal.”
Trudeau v. Federal Trade Commission, 579 F.3d 754 (7th Cir. 2009).
AS counsel for Kevin Trudeau, obtained reversal of $37.6 million civil contempt sanction and ban on commercial speech of New York Times #1 best-selling author.
Winnett v. Caterpillar, Inc., 553 F.3d 1000 (6th Cir. 2009).
As counsel for major manufacturer, obtained interlocutory review and reversal of district court ruling that a class of retired employees obtained vested rights in lifetime, no-cost retiree medical benefits when they became eligible for retirement, despite the fact that new labor agreements were in force when they actually retired.
Dell Inc. v. Kappos, (E.D. Va. 2009) (settled).
Counsel for Dell in action challenging the Patent & Trademark Office’s improper revival of a patent.
Caraco Pharmaceutical Labs., Ltd. v. Forest Labs., Inc., 527 F.3d 1278 (Fed. Cir. 2008).
As counsel for Caraco, obtained reversal of an adverse decision in a patent case raising a critical jurisdictional issue under the Hatch-Waxman Act: whether a unilateral “covenant not to sue” for patent infringement eliminated the “case or controversy” between the patentee and its generic competitor, where the covenant did not concede the issue of non-infringement and prevented the generic drug company from entering the market.
Perretta v. Prometheus Dev. Corp., 520 F.3d 1029 (9th Cir. 2008), vacated on grant of rehearing, 527 F.3d 853 (9th Cir. 2008).
As counsel for general partner of a major real estate development partnership, obtained rehearing and reversal of adverse decision reinstating a claim for breach of fiduciary duty based on a merger approved by the limited partners in which the general partner had (and disclosed) a conflict of interest.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation v. Buffalo Technology (USA), Inc., No. 2007-1449 (Fed. Cir.)
As counsel for amicus TPL Group Limited, argued that injunctive relief is available to remedy patent infringement where patent is held by non-practicing patent holder.
United States v. Libby, 2007 WL 4545871 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 13, 2007) (No. 07-3068) (appeal dismissed).
As counsel for amicus Landmark Legal Foundation, challenged constitutionality, under Appointments Clause, of appointment of federal Special Counsel.
Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Johnson served in the Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice, which advises the president, the attorney general, and other senior executive branch officials on complex constitutional and statutory questions. While at OLC, Mr. Johnson served as a principal adviser on constitutional questions concerning the president’s Faith-Based and Community Initiative. He earlier spent several years as a member of the Supreme Court & Appellate Practice Group at Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw in Chicago. After graduating from law school, Mr. Johnson served as a law clerk to the Hon. Donald P. Lay of the Eighth Circuit.
In 2009, Mr. Johnson was profiled in the National Law Journal’s and Legal Times’ 40 under 40 feature for his work in appellate and trial litigation. He is also the 1998 recipient of the Religious Liberty Defender Award, presented by the Christian Legal Society, Center for Law & Religious Freedom. In addition, he was honored by The American Agricultural Law Association with the Award for Excellence in Professional Scholarship in 1997. Mr. Johnson was also recognized in the 2012 edition of the Best Lawyers in America for his appellate law practice.
Honors and Awards
Mr. Johnson is a member of the American Bar Association, the Christian Legal Society, the Federalist Society, the Defense Research Institute, and the Edward Coke Appellate Inn of Court. He also serves on the advisory board of Samaritan Inns, a D.C.-based nonprofit organization that offers intensive recovery programs and transitional living for those struggling with homelessness and addiction. From 2000-2002, Mr. Johnson served as a Lecturer in Law at The University of Chicago Law School, where he taught Religion and the First Amendment.
Mr. Johnson received a B.A. in Philosophy, magna cum laude, from St. Olaf College in 1991, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He received a J.D., cum laude, from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1995.
Speeches and Publications
Mr. Johnson has spoken and published extensively in both scholarly journals and the popular press. His scholarly articles have appeared in publications such as Constitutional Commentary and the Boston College, Notre Dame, and the Minnesota Law reviews. His op-ed pieces have appeared in newspapers such as The New York Times, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Washington Times, and The National Law Journal.
In addition, Mr. Johnson has presented papers at symposia on various constitutional issues at Stanford Law School, The University of Chicago Law School, Boston College Law School, University of Minnesota Law School, American Association of Law Schools National Conference, American Bar Association (Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources), the American Constitution Society, and The Federalist Society. He has appeared on various radio and television programs to discuss constitutional and commercial issues.
A sampling of his publications includes: “Keeping Current on Securities: Supreme Court Limits Private Lawsuits,” Business Law Today at 26 (vol. 17, no. 5, May/June 2008) (with Gene C. Schaerr, Linda T. Coberly, and William P. Ferranti); “A Blow to Private Whistleblowers,” The Corporate Counselor, Vol. 21, No. 12 (May 2007) (with William P. Ferranti & Andrew C. Nichols); “The Anatomy of an Effective Reply Brief,” Certworthy (Summer 2006); “Scalito?”, National Law Journal (Nov. 14, 2005) (with Gene C. Schaerr); “How Filibusters Drain Quality,” Wash. Times (May 18, 2005); “Expressive Association and Organizational Autonomy,” 85 Minn. L. Rev. 1639 (2001); “Of Politics and Pulpits - A First Amendment Analysis of IRS Restrictions on the Political Activities of Religious Organizations,” 42 B.C. L. Rev. 875 (2001); “A Case the Scouts Had to Win,” N.Y. Times, at A30 (June 30, 2000); “A Civil Libertarian Case for the Constitutionality of School Choice,” 10 Geo. Mason Civ. Rts. L.J. 1 (1999/2000); “State Action, Due Process, and Regulated Health Care: The Downstream Effects of American Manufacturers Mutual Insurance Company v. Sullivan,” Health Care Law Monthly 3 (June 1999) (with Michael W. McConnell); “Scalia’s Sermonette,” 72 Notre Dame L. Rev. 863 (1997) (with Michael S. Paulsen); Review of Steven D. Smith, “Foreordained Failure: The Search for a Constitutional Principle of Religious Freedom,” 14 Const. Comm. 365 (1997); and “A Regulatory ‘Waste Land’: Defining a Justified Federal Role in Crop Insurance,” 72 N.D. L. Rev. 505 (1996).