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Former DOJ Civil Division Chief Hunt Joins Alston & Bird (1)

July 15, 2020, 10:01 AMUpdated: July 15, 2020, 3:17 PM

Joseph “Jody” Hunt, who recently left his job as head of the Justice Department’s civil division, is headed to Alston & Bird as senior counsel in the firm’s litigation and trial practice group.

Hunt told DOJ lawyers in late June that he would be stepping down on July 3, after 21 years at the Justice Department. He spent the last two years leading the civil division, and announced his departure just hours after Hunt’s name appeared on a federal lawsuit seeking to stop the publication of a new book by former White House national security advisor John Bolton.

“I wouldn’t identify any particular thing as a reason for leaving,” Hunt said in an interview with Bloomberg Law. “It was just a matter of what’s the right timing for me.”

Hunt will officially join the firm in August and will be based in its offices in Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

Hunt said that when he took the position as assistant attorney general for the civil division, a politically-appointed post, he knew his tenure at the DOJ would end at some point.

“It was just a matter of what’s the right timing for me,” Hunt said.

Leading Trump Defense

As head of the department’s civil litigation department, Hunt oversaw the legal defense of Trump administration policies and administration actions. That includes defending lawsuits challenging President Donald Trump’s private business dealings under the Constitution’s Emoluments Clauses and those seeking to overturn the travel ban and other executive orders, and fighting congressional subpoenas.

Hunt also led the division’s tackling of the opioid epidemic, securing a $1.4 billion settlement in 2019 against Suboxone maker Reckitt Benckiser Group, the largest recovery in history involving an opioid manufacturer.

Under his leadership the civil division also brought the largest-ever sweep of elder fraud cases in Justice Department history and prioritized the enforcement of the False Claims Act, which protects taxpayer funds against fraud. The government recovered approximately $3 billion under the Act in each of the last two years, Hunt said.

“Jody’s enforcement track record is one to be envied as the head of the civil division,” said Bill Jordan, co-leader of Alston & Bird’s health care industry litigation team and partners committee member.

Hunt clerked for a federal judge in Alabama and worked at White & Case as an associate before jumping to King & Spalding, where he made partner in 1999. He joined DOJ later the same year, rising to director of the civil division’s Federal Programs Branch in 2002, a position he held for 15 years before becoming chief of staff for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2017 and being named assistant attorney general a year later.

Jordan and Hunt both worked alongside one another at the civil division about 20 years ago and over the years as Jordan represented clients in front of the civil division, Jordan said. The pair also worked with former Alston & Bird partner Robert McCallum Jr., who served as assistant attorney general for the civil division in 2001 until 2003 when he was appointed associate attorney general.

Much of the public work done by the division involves health care fraud enforcement and FDA matters, among others, which meshes well with Alston & Bird’s large health care practice. The firms represents that companies, healthcare providers and contractors of all types that are being investigated by the civil division or under the False Claims Act, Jordan said.

Hunt will “fit right in” with the firm’s group that works on government facing litigation to help clients get through investigations, to settle them or litigate them or help out to see what the government is looking for, Jordan said.

“The decision to join Alston & Bird was easy for me because from my perspective Alston & Bird is the premiere firm for government facing enforcement litigation efforts,” Hunt said.

Hunt isn’t the only lawyer with ties to Trump to join the firm. White-collar litigator Joanna Hendon, who has defended President Trump, three of his children and The Trump Organization in Manhattan federal court, joined Alston & Bird as a partner in New York last month.

Hunt is just one of several exits from Main Justice in recent weeks. Noel Francisco, solicitor general and former Jones Day partner, will return to his former firm after leaving his government post July 3.

Brian Benczkowski, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division and former Kirkland & Ellis partner, has also said he’ll leave DOJ though his next steps have not yet been announced.

(Added detail in paragraphs 17 and 18 about Noel Francisco's return to Jones Day. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at mtribe@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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