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Name: Bleich, Jeff
Current Position: Previous Ambassador

The government of Australia is got none other than an Elvis Presley-loving California lawyer and friend (and fundraiser) of President Barack Obama as the new American ambassador. Jeffrey Bleich was confirmed by the Senate November 11, 2009.

Bleich attended Amherst College in Massachusetts, earning a Bachelor of Arts in political science, magna cum laude, in 1983. He received a fellowship from the Coro Foundation that allowed him to study juvenile justice and the teachers union in St. Louis. He went to graduate school at Harvard, during which time he contributed to a book about juvenile justice called From Children to Citizens and founded a student magazine, originally called KSG Lampoon. He received an MA in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, before heading west for law school. At the University of California-Berkeley he served as editor-in-chief of the California Law Review while earning his JD degree in 1989.
He spent the next couple of years clerking. While competing for the chance to clerk for DC Circuit Court Chief Judge Abner Mikva, Bleich met Obama, who was chosen for the position but ultimately turned it down. Instead, Bleich clerked for Mikva (1989-1990), and then for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist (1990-1991). After that, Bleich served as a legal assistant to Judge Howard Houltzmann on the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands (1991-1992).
During his early years as a young lawyer, Bleich wrote a two-act play about King Ludwig of Bavaria after developing an interest in the mad king.
The law firm Munger, Tolles and Olson hired Bleich in 1992, and within three years he made partner. He has practiced general civil litigation, with emphasis on appellate practice, media law, communications law, and intellectual property law.
In 1993, he earned a Certificate of Study in Public & Private International Law from The Hague Academy of International Law, Netherlands. That same year he became an adjunct lecturer at UC Berkeley, teaching seminar courses on international human rights, habeas corpus, and appellate advocacy.
His connections with the Democratic Party led to being appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1999 to serve as director of the White House Commission on Youth Violence, following the Columbine massacre.
Bleich and Obama reunited after the San Francisco lawyer saw the aspiring Illinois politician give a campaign speech during his 2004 run for the U.S. Senate. During the 2008 presidential contest, Bleich became co-chair of Obama’s campaign in California and a member of his national finance committee. According to, Bleich was one of Obama’s top bundlers, raising a minimum of $500,000.
In March 2009, Bleich went on leave from his firm to work as a special counsel in the White House. He remained in this role until receiving his nomination for the ambassadorship.
Bleich has been a member of the board of trustees of the California State University system since 2004, including service as vice chair (2006-2008) and chair (2008 until present). He has been president of the Barristers Club of San Francisco (1995), San Francisco Bar Association (2003) and the California State Bar (2007-2008). He has served as chair of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights (1998-1999) and the U.S. District Court for Northern District California Judicial Conference (2003).
Bleich absolutely loves Elvis. He reportedly has had a life-size cut-out of “The King” wearing a gold lame suit in his legal office, along with other memorabilia, such as Elvis bookends, pillows, a footstool, a lunchbox, a bottle of conditioning shampoo and a framed black-and-white photo of the King’s wedding.
Bleich and his wife Becky have two sons and a daughter.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Jeffrey L. Bleich Biography (California State University)
Barack Obama's New Man in Canberra: Jeff Bleich (by Brad Norington, The Australian)
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