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Joan Donoghue ’81 Nominated to International Court of Justice

Joan Donoghue '81

By Andrew Cohen

Joan Donoghue ’81, the U.S. State Department’s Principal Deputy Legal Adviser, has been nominated to serve as a judge on the International Court of Justice (ICJ). It is widely expected that she will be confirmed this fall.

Located in The Hague, the ICJ is the United Nations’ main judicial arm. Established in 1945, it’s composed of 15 judges and has a dual role: settling legal disputes between the U.N’s 192 member nations, and issuing advisory legal opinions on matters referred to it by U.N. organs and specialized agencies.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Donoghue is “judicious, fair, an extraordinary international legal counsel, and an excellent choice for the Court.” She added that as the State Department’s Acting Legal Adviser in 2009 and now as principal deputy legal adviser, Donoghue has provided her “with the very best legal advice on the complex and challenging issues we confront on a daily basis. She sees the hardest issues, and asks the toughest questions.”

Donoghue has been a State Department lawyer from 1984 to 1999, and from 2005 to the present. In between, she served as deputy general counsel of the U.S. Treasury Department and as associate general counsel and then general counsel and corporate secretary for mortgage insurer Freddie Mac.

At the State Department, Donoghue has worked as deputy legal adviser and assistant legal adviser for several government offices, including those responsible for economic affairs, African affairs, oceans and environment, and diplomatic law and litigation. Appointed principal deputy legal adviser in September 2007, her duties have included advising the Secretary of State and other senior officials on all aspects of the State Department’s international legal work, and managing a bureau of 265 lawyers and support staff.

She has received numerous awards in her career, including the Distinguished Honor Award—the most prestigious given by the Secretary of State—the Presidential Rank Award, and the Federal Bar Association’s Younger Federal Lawyer of the Year Award.

In addition to graduating from Berkeley Law, Donoghue has served as a visiting professor at the school. She’s also been an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and George Washington University School of Law.