Dawn  Johnsen

Dawn Johnsen

Walter W. Foskett Professor of Law

  • B.A., Yale College 1983
  • J.D., Yale Law School 1986
  • Graduated Yale College summa cum laude with a B.A. in economics and political science
  • Member of Phi Beta Kappa
  • Article and book review editor of the Yale Law Journal at Yale Law School
  • Acting Assistant Attorney General (1997-1998) and Deputy Assistant Attorney General (1993-1996), U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, Washington, D.C.
  • Legal Director, National Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League (currently NARAL Pro-Choice America) (1988-1993)
  • Staff Counsel Fellow, American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project, New York (1987-1988)
  • Clerk, Hon. Richard D. Cudahy, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Chicago (1986-1987)

Professor Johnsen joined the faculty in 1998, following a distinguished career in Washington, D.C. She served in the U.S. Department of Justice under President Bill Clinton (1993-1998), including as Acting Assistant Attorney General heading the Office of Legal Counsel where she provided constitutional and other legal advice to the Attorney General, the Counsel to the President, and the general counsels of the various executive branch agencies. She also served on President Barack Obama's transition team and was nominee for Assistant Attorney General and director of the Office of Legal Counsel. From 1988-1993, she was the Legal Director of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (now NARAL Pro-Choice America). She also worked at the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project and clerked for Judge Richard D. Cudahy of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Johnsen serves on the national board of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy and as co-chair of the ACS Issue Group on Separation of Powers and Federalism. Her research interests include issues of separation of powers (especially presidential power) and civil liberties (especially reproductive rights).

Her courses include Constitutional Law, the First Amendment, and Seminars in the Separation of Powers and Sexuality, Reproduction and the Constitution.

Selected Works
  • Department of Justice: Restoring Integrity and the Rule of Law, in CHANGE FOR AMERICA: A PROGRESSIVE BLUEPRINT FOR THE 44TH PRESIDENT (Mark Green and Michele Jolin, Eds.). New York: Basic Books, 2009.
  • The Story of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld: Trying Enemy Combatants by Military Commission, in PRESIDENTIAL POWER STORIES (Christopher Schroeder and Curtis Bradley, Eds.). New York: Foundation Press, 2009.
  • "TRAP"ing Roe in Indiana and A Common-Ground Alternative, 118 YALE LAW JOURNAL 1356 (2009).
  • What's a President to Do? Interpreting the Constitution in the Wake of the Bush Administration's Abuses, 88 BOSTON UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW 395 (2008). [HeinOnline]
  • Faithfully Executing the Laws: Internal Legal Constraints on Executive Power, 54 UCLA L. Rev. 1559 (2007)
  • Lessons from the Right: Progressive Constitutionalism for the Twenty-First Century, 1 Harv. L. & Pol'y Rev. 239 (2007)
  • Functional Departmentalism and Nonjudicial Interpretation: Who Determines Constitutional Meaning?, 67 Law & Contemp. Probs 105 (2004)
  • Ronald Reagan and the Rehnquist Court on Congressional Power: Presidential Influences on Constitutional Change, 78 Ind. L.J. 363 (2003)
  • Presidential Non-Enforcement of Constitutionally Objectionable Statutes, 63 Law & Contemp. Probs 7 (2000)