Jonathan Cohn, who recently stepped down as one the Justice Department’s top civil lawyers, is returning to Sidley Austin as a partner in the firm's appellate practice.
Cohn handled several high-profile assignments at Justice, including Arar v. Ashcroft, in which a Canadian citizen alleged that American authorities spirited him away to Syria, where he spent a year in confinement and was tortured. A decision is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. In 2007, Cohn argued the government’s case in Abigail Alliance v. Eschenbach in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, successfully defending the Food and Drug Administration’s position that terminally ill patients have no constitutional right to unapproved drugs.
Cohn, 36, launched his career at Sidley under the guidance of premier advocates Carter Phillips and Peter Keisler, who led the department’s Civil Division for more than four years during the Bush administration. Cohn served as Keisler’s deputy, ultimately supervising the Civil Division’s appellate staff. Keisler resigned in November 2007, after briefly serving as acting attorney general, and rejoined Sidley last March.
“Peter Keisler left, and I got lonely,” Cohn jokes. Cohn left the department on January 20 and spent the past few weeks weighing his options, but Sidley prevailed on him. “It’s like going home,” he says, adding that “it feels good to have the decision nailed down.” He is planning to start in March.
In the meantime, he’s enjoying time with his 18-month-old son and reacquainting himself with some of his old pastimes. (He went bowling last week, rolling a 224.) He also took a long-overdue vacation to Arizona and Mexico with his wife, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr’s Rachel Brand, the former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy.