Robert Everett Johnson



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Robert Everett Johnson is an attorney at the Institute for Justice. He joined the Institute in 2014 and litigates cases protecting private property, economic liberty, and freedom of speech.

Robert is a nationally-recognized expert on civil forfeiture. He is currently lead counsel in Serrano v. Customs and Border Protection, challenging the federal government’s practice of seizing property without providing a timely hearing. He is also lead counsel in Harjo v. City of Albuquerque, challenging the use of forfeiture revenues to fund the budgets of the very agencies that seize forfeited property.

In addition to fighting civil forfeiture, Robert is lead counsel for a class action lawsuit fighting the New York Police Department’s use of a draconian “no-fault eviction” statute to coerce residents to waive their constitutional rights, as well as a First Amendment challenge to the City of Savannah’s licensing requirement for tour guides.

Robert previously represented a series of small business owners who had their entire bank accounts seized by the IRS, setting a precedent that ultimately resulted in the IRS reopening hundreds of closed forfeiture cases and returning millions of dollars.

Robert’s writing has been published in the Wall Street JournalWashington Post, Politico, USA Today, and other print and online venues. Robert has testified about occupational licensing before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees and has twice testified about civil forfeiture before the House Ways & Means Oversight Subcommittee.

From 2014-2017, Robert served as IJ’s first Elfie Gallun Fellow for Freedom and the Constitution. In that role, Robert wrote and spoke about the vital role the U.S. Constitution plays in protecting our most precious freedoms.

Before joining IJ, Robert was an attorney in the Washington, D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, where he specialized in appellate and constitutional law. Robert clerked for Chief Judge Alex Kozinski on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the United States Supreme Court.

Robert graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he also served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Robert is a member of the Virginia and D.C. bars.

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Research and Reports

  • March 1, 2015    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Boards Behaving Badly

    How States Can Prevent Licensing Boards From Restraining Competition, Harming Consumers, and Generating Legal Liability Under North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC

    In a nutshell, states should: Charge an independent “licensing ombudsman” with reviewing the actions of state licensing boards; Charge the licensing ombudsman with a mandate to promote economic competition; Make the ombudsman responsible for conducting periodic reviews to identify ways to reduce licensing burdens; and Eliminate licensing altogether for occupations where it is unnecessary.

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