Brendan V. Johnson


Brendan V. Johnson


Co-Chair, American Indian Law and Policy Group;
Co-Chair, Government and Internal Investigations Group


Former United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota Brendan Johnson excels at finding creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems. An aggressive advocate, Mr. Johnson has spent his career trying cases, deposing hostile witnesses, and cross-examining experts. His courtroom advocacy led Shared Hope International, an organization dedicated to abolishing human trafficking, to describe Mr. Johnson as a “force of determination, initiative and skill…”  Together, his unique background and skill set power his ability to guide clients to solutions that serve not only their legal interest, but also to safeguard their reputation in high stakes litigation. 

Mr. Johnson’s experience comes from his time at the Department of Justice as well as his political and public advocacy work.  While serving as the United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota, Mr. Johnson was selected by the Attorney General of the United States to chair the Department of Justice’s Native American Issues Subcommittee and to serve on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee. He was also a member of the Justice Department’s Terrorism/National Security and Cybercrime Subcommittees. In addition, he was named one of the nation’s top 40 political rising stars under the age of 40 by the Washington Post, and Campaigns and Election listed him as one of the 500 most influential people in politics. Mr. Johnson was recognized by Chambers USA in Nationwide Band 1 for Native American Law and Indian Country Today named him to their “Hot List” of attorneys.   

Mr. Johnson has also received numerous awards for his advocacy. These include the University of South Dakota’s Women in Law Attorney of the Year Award, the South Dakota Violence Against Women Prosecutor of the Year Award and, following his successful argument in the case of United States v. Jungers in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, Shared Hope’s  2014 Pathbreaker Award. When summarizing the impact of Mr. Johnson’s career with the Justice Department, former Attorney General Holder stated that, “As a lawyer and as a leader, Brendan has set a standard of excellence that will not soon be surpassed.  Particularly with regard to public safety challenges on tribal lands, he has served as a key advisor to senior Justice Department officials-including me.” 

Ranked in Chambers USA 2021
  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America List (2020-2022 editions)
  • Named a "Leading Practitioner in Native American Law," Chambers USA (2018-2021)
  • Named an "Up-and-Coming attorney" in Native American Law, Chambers (2017)
  • Named to Indian Country Business Today’s “Hot List” (2016)
  • "Pathbreaker of the Year," Shared Hope International  (2014)
  • "Top 40 Politicians Under the Age of 40," Washington Post (2014)
  • "Top 500 Most Influential in Politics," Campaigns and Elections Magazine (2013)
  • "Attorney of the Year," University of South Dakota Women in Law (2013)
  • "South Dakota Violence Against Women Prosecutor of the Year” (2013)
  • Harry S. Truman Scholar (1993)
Bar Admissions
  • Minnesota
  • South Dakota
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota
  • U.S. District Court, District of North Dakota
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • U.S. District Court, South Dakota
  • University of Virginia School of Law, J.D. (2001)
  • University of South Dakota, B.S. (1998)

  • Current Issues on American Indian Law and Policy 
    Panelist, In-House CLE for a Financial Institution (October 12, 2021)
  • State and Local Government Tribal Lending Law Panel 2: Defending the Tribes
    American Bar Association, Webinar (August 5, 2021)
  • Defending the Protectors of the Sacred: Standing Rock, Black Hills, Mauna Kea
    Arizona Bar Association, Webinar (December 2, 2020)
  • Regulatory Review: Election Analysis
    Online Lenders Alliance Tribal Lending Conference, Webinar (December 1, 2020)
  • Representations of Wealth Planning and Conflict in Film and Literature: What Can We Learn from Such Depictions?
    Robins Kaplan LLP Wealth Planning, Administration, and Disputes Annual CLE, Webinar (October 7, 2020)
  • Former U.S. Attorney, Chamber president talk marijuana legalization
    Sioux Falls Argus Leader (October 5, 2020)
  • Regulation, Jurisdiction and Compliance
    Sixth Annual Tribal Government E-Commerce Conference, Chandler, Arizona (January 30, 2020)
  • Minimizing Fiduciary Risk and Litigation
    South Dakota Trust Association Fall Forum, Augustana University, Sioux Falls, South Dakota (October 17, 2018)
  • Tribal Consultation Under the Trump Administration
    Tribal Law Institute – CLE International, Scottsdale, Arizona (October 11, 2018)
  • Strategies to Address Human Trafficking at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
    South Dakota Trust Association Fall Forum, Vermillion, South Dakota (September 27, 2018)
  • Tribal Cannabis and Hemp Ventures Answers or More Questions
    Native American Finance Officers Association, New Orleans, Louisiana (April 24, 2018)
  • The Department of Justice under President Trump: Cannabis and Other Priorities Impacting Indian Country
    National Indian Gaming Association Convention, Las Vegas, Nevada (April 18, 2018)
  • The Future of Tribal Financial Regulation
    Wiring the Rez: Innovative Strategies for Business Development via E-Commerce CLE Conference, Chandler, Arizona (February 1, 2018)
  • Sovereign Immunity at the PTAB Gimmick or Genius
    Intellectual Property Owners Association, Webinar (October 24, 2017)
  • Sovereign Immunity at the PTAB
    Intellectual Property Owners Association, Webinar (October 11, 2017)
  • A Legal Tale: The Politics & Policies of Cannabis in Indian Country
    National Indian Gaming Association Convention,San Diego, California (April 11, 2017)
  • Tribal Cannabis State of Play
    Victor Strategies Tribal Cannabis & Hemp Symposium, Tulalip Reservation, Seattle, Washington (November 2, 2016)
  • Human Trafficking and Major Sports Events
    Robins Kaplan LLP Trial Advocacy Seminar (October 13, 2016)
  • The Future of Tribal Lending
    Lenders Alliance, Washington, D.C. (July 26, 2016)
  • The Future of Tribal Economic Development
    National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, Tulsa, Oklahoma (July 12, 2016)
  • Update on Cannabis Law
    National Reservation Economic Summit Las Vegas, Nevada (March 23, 2016)
  • Eric Holders Justice Department People Process and Policies
    Mitchell Hamline Alumni CLE, St. Paul, Minnesota (March 10, 2016)
  • Eric Holder's Justice Department: People, Process, and Policies
    Minnesota DFL Lawyers, Minneapolis, Minnesota (March 9, 2016)
  • Update on Criminal Justice Issues in Indian Country
    Spokane Bar Association Spokane, Washington (March 4, 2016)
  • Human Trafficking in Indian Country
    Gonzaga Native American Law Students Association and Gonzaga Journal of International Law, Spokane, Washington (March 3, 2016)
  • The Future of Water Rights in Indian Country
    Great Plains Tribal Water Alliance, Pierre, South Dakota (December 2, 2015)
  • Eric Holder's Justice Department: People and Policies
    Massachusetts Bar Association, Boston, Massachusetts (October 6, 2015)
  • Homegrown Human Trafficking in the Heartland
    Minnesota Criminal Justice Institute, St. Paul, Minnesota (August 17, 2015)
  • Human Trafficking and Native American Victims
    National Congress of American Indians, St. Paul, Minnesota (June 29, 2015)
  • Reflections on Department of Justice Cases in South Dakota
    Black Hills Forum and Press Club, Rapid City, South Dakota (June 26, 2015)
  • Overview of South Dakota Litigation
    South Dakota Trial Lawyers Association, Rapid City, South Dakota (June 18, 2015)
  • Shared Hope International’s Human Trafficking Conference
    Keynote Speaker, Washington, D.C. (November 7, 2014)
  • Human Trafficking in Indian Country
    Four Corners Tribal Public Safety Conference, Flagstaff, Arizona (August 28, 2014)
  • Coordinating a Successful Human Trafficking Investigation and Prosecution
    Human Trafficking Training for Law Enforcements, Phoenix, Arizona (August 26, 2014)
  • The Future of Prosecuting Healthcare Fraud
    Information Security Media Group Podcast (August 5, 2014)
  • State Bar Association of South Dakota Annual Conference
    Keynote Speaker, Sioux Falls, South Dakota (June 20, 2014)
  • Update for Assistant United States Attorneys on Indian Country Strategies
    Department of Justice National Advocacy Center, Columbia, South Carolina (July 31, 2012)
  • Changing Dynamics on the Reservations
    National Intertribal Youth Summit, Chevy Chase, Maryland (July 30, 3012)
  • Update on Efforts to Improve Public Safety in Indian Country
    National Congress of America Indians Mid-Year Conference, Lincoln, Nebraska (July 18, 2012)
  • Strategies to Reduce Crime on Reservations
    Indian Law and Order Commission, Arlington, Virginia (March 7, 2012)
  • Tribal Law and Order Act One Year Later: Have We Improved Public Safety and Justice Throughout Indian Country?
    United States Senate India Affairs Committee, Department of Justice Witness (September 22, 2011)
  • Overview of Indian Country Law
    State Bar Association of South Dakota and Committee on Continuing Legal Education, Sioux Falls, South Dakota (June 23, 2011)
  • National FBI Training on Domestic Violence
    Instructor, Rapid City, South Dakota (May 11, 2011)
  • Crime Trends in South Dakota
    Regional FBI Management Meeting, Brainerd, Minnesota (June 25, 2010)
  • A Primer on Federal Criminal Jurisdiction for the National Media
    University of New Mexico School of Law, Albuquerque, New Mexico (June 25, 2010)
  • The Future of Federal Law Enforcement in Indian Country
    National Congress of American Indians (June 21, 2010)
August 26, 2021
WEBINAR | CTLC Mid-Year Update
Brendan Johnson - Conference of Tribal Lending Commissioners
May 24, 2021
WEBINAR | Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age
Eric Barstad, Brendan Johnson, Steve Safranski, Stacey Slaughter


Links to full publications and news releases.


Fall 2021
Context Matters: Fiduciaries and the Rule Against Self-Dealing
Brendan Johnson, Tim Billion - The Robins Kaplan Spotlight, Vol. 6, No. 3
Fall 2020
The IRS Says “Nice Try.” Case Illustrations of Unsuccessful Valuation Efforts
Brendan Johnson, Ena Kovacevic - The Robins Kaplan Spotlight, Vol. 5, No. 3
Spring 2019
South Dakota DAPTS: Protect Your Cake and Eat it, Too
The Robins Kaplan Spotlight, Vol. 4, No. 1
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