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Rob Johnson

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 the government’s regulatory power. He is currently 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. He was part of teams that invalidated occupational licensing requirements for tour guides under the First Amendment, and he is currently litigating multiple First Amendment challenges to government regulations that prevent therapists from providing teletherapy across state lines.

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 is currently at work on a book about the Fourteenth Amendment.

Rob studied literature and anthropology at Columbia University, and he studied law at Harvard Law School. Upon graduation, he clerked for Chief Judge Alex Kozinski on the Ninth Circuit and for Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

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 is a member of the Ohio 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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