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, DC. She served in the U.S. Department of Justice under President Bill Clinton (1993-1998), including as the acting assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel (1997-1998), which provides legal advice to the attorney general, the president, and the general counsels of the various executive branch agencies. She served on the transition teams for both President Clinton and President Barack Obama. President Obama nominated her to return to head the Office of Legal Counsel as assistant attorney general but the US Senate failed to act on the nomination from 2009-2010. From 1988-1993, she was the legal director of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (now NARAL Pro-Choice America), and prior to that as staff counsel fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project. She clerked for Judge Richard D. Cudahy of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Johnsen serves as director and secretary of the board of directors of the Guttmacher Institute, a leading sexual and reproductive health research and policy organization. She also serves on the academic advisory board of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. Her research interests include issues of separation of powers (especially presidential power) and civil liberties (especially reproductive rights). She teaches Constitutional Law, the First Amendment, and Seminars in the Separation of Powers and Sexuality, Reproduction and the Constitution.

In the media
Selected Works
  • The Lawyers’ War: Counterterrorism from Bush to Obama to Trump, Foreign Affairs (Jan./Feb. 2017)
  • When Responsibilities Collide: Humanitarian Intervention, Shared War Powers, and the Rule of Law, 53 Hous. L. Rev. 1065 (2016)
  • State Court Protection of Reproductive Rights: The Past, The Perils, and The Promise, 29 Colum. J. Gender & L. 41 (2015)
  • Respecting Intent and Dispelling Stereotypes by Reducing Unintended Pregnancy, 43 J.L. Med. & Ethics 341 (2015)
  • Windsor, Shelby County and the Demise of Originalism: A Personal Account, 89 Ind. L.J. 3 (2014) (and selected for reprinting in journal of the American Constitution Society, Advance)
  • Justice Brennan: Legacy of a Champion, 111 Michigan Law Review 1151 (2013)
  • “The Essence of a Free Society”: The Executive Powers Legacy of Justice Stevens and the Future of Foreign Affairs Deference, 106 Northwestern University Law Review 467 (2012)
  • The Obama Administration’s Decision to Defend Constitutional Equality Rather Than the Defense of Marriage Act, 81 Fordham Law Review 599 (2012)
  • 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 L.J. 1356 (2009).
  • What's a President to Do? Interpreting the Constitution in the Wake of the Bush Administration's Abuses, 88 B.U. L. Rev. 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)
  • Constitutional law
  • Presidential power
  • Civil rights/civil liberties
  • First Amendment