Education

Harvard Law School, J.D., 2009
Columbia University, B.A., 2006

Clerkships

Justice Anthony Kennedy, U.S. Supreme Court
Judge Alex Kozinski, Ninth Circuit

Memberships

Licensed in Washington, D.C.
Licensed in Ohio

Rob Johnson is a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, where he litigates to protect private property, free speech, and other individual rights.

Rob litigates cases involving irrational and overbearing exercises of government power. Currently, for instance, he is challenging a dystopian law enforcement program that subjects individuals to relentless harassment simply because a computer algorithm predicts they are likely to commit unspecified future crimes. He previously developed a lawsuit that ended the NYPD’s use of draconian “no-fault evictions” to coerce residents to waive their constitutional rights, and he also successfully challenged a civil forfeiture program as a violation of due process.

Rob also litigates to uphold the right to financial privacy. He is currently challenging the FBI’s dragnet search and seizure of over eight hundred safety deposit boxes, and he is involved in efforts opposing the expansion of bank reporting laws to cryptocurrencies. He previously represented a series of small business owners who had their entire bank accounts seized by the IRS because of alleged violations of bank reporting laws, and he launched an initiative that resulted in the IRS reopening hundreds of such cases and returning millions of dollars.

Rob’s writing has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Politico, and Reason, among other venues. Rob 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. He has also testified before state legislatures across the country.

From 2014-2017, Rob served as IJ’s first Elfie Gallun Fellow for Freedom and the Constitution. In that role, Rob wrote and spoke about the vital role the U.S. Constitution plays in protecting our most precious freedoms. He spends his spare time researching and writing about the history of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Rob lives in Cleveland with his wife and two daughters—all named after characters in Shakespeare plays—and is an amateur large format photographer.

Rob's Cases

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Rob's Research & Reports

Economic Liberty | Occupational Licensing

Boards Behaving Badly

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…

Rob's Amicus Briefs

U.S. v. Bednar

U.S. v. Bednar

U.S. Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit

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Rob's News, Articles & Publications

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Rob's Hearings

New York Forfeiture Appeal Oral Argument

  • Second Circuit
  • May 03, 2023

Rochester, New York, police seized more than $8,000 from Cristal Starling on the theory that her then-boyfriend was a drug dealer and the money was drug proceeds. In reality, it was legitimate cash that Cristal was saving to expand her food cart into a food truck. Nevertheless, and although Cristal’s now-ex-boyfriend was acquitted on drug charges, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration moved to keep Cristal’s money forever using civil forfeiture. Read More

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