Friday, November 13, 2009
Senate Confirms Bleich as Ambassador to Australia
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The U.S. Senate has confirmed President Obama’s appointment of former State Bar of California President Jeffrey L. Bleich as ambassador to Australia.
The Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Bleich’s appointment to the post in Canberra.
A former partner in Munger, Tolles & Olson’s San Francisco office, Bleich, 48, has worked in Washington since March, serving as special counsel to the president. Before that, he co-chaired Obama’s presidential campaign in California.
Bleich served as State Bar president from 2007 to 2008 and joined Munger Tolles in 1992, three years after his admission to the State Bar.
A graduate of Amherst College and UC Berkeley School of Law—where he has taught as an adjunct lecturer in various subjects including constitutional law—Bleich holds a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University.
He met Obama 20 years ago when they were competing for a job as a law clerk to then-Chief Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Obama, reportedly the preferred candidate, never took the job, but the two became friends. Bleich served as Mikva’s clerk before going on to clerk for the late U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, and served as a legal assistant in the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal of the Hague.
Bleich was a litigator with Munger Tolles, specializing in complex business litigation, appellate practice, media law, communications law and intellectual property. He became a partner three years after joining the firm.
In 1999, he took a sabbatical for several months after the Columbine shootings to serve as director of the White House Commission on Youth Violence for then-President Clinton.
A past president of the Bar Association of San Francisco, Bleich has worked with the Assembly, Senate and governor’s office as a member of the Bench-Bar coalition, the California State University Governmental Relations Committee and the Judicial Council.
He has chaired the California State University Board of Trustees since 2008 and been a member since 2004. He also serves on the boards of more than 20 charity organizations and collects Elvis memorabilia.
As a co-chair of Obama’s California campaign, Bleich helped raise funds and traveled to three states on behalf of the future president’s campaign. He navigated dual roles as an Obama campaigner and State Bar president mostly without controversy, but drew the irritation of some when he used the 2008 State Bar Convention in Monterey to promote a fundraising event in the presidential suite of the local Marriott Hotel.
Bleich and his wife, Rebecca Pratt Bleich, have two sons and a daughter.
Obama nominated Bleich on Sept. 11. The post has been vacant since Ambassador Robert McCallum, who was appointed by former President Bush, departed in January.
Former Deputy Chief of Mission Dan Clune—a career diplomat and former Chicago lawyer who also graduated from UC Berkeley School of Law—assumed temporary responsibility for the embassy when Obama became president in January.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company