John Gleeson

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP 

John Gleeson is a trial and appellate lawyer and company advisor who was a federal judge for 22 years before joining the firm in 2016. He is a litigation partner in the White Collar & Regulatory Defense and Commercial Litigation Groups. Recognized by The Legal 500 US, his practice focuses on internal investigations, white collar defense and complex civil litigation.

Judge Gleeson is also recognized as a “Client Service All-Star” by BTI Consulting in 2018. Prior to joining the firm, Judge Gleeson was a United States District Judge in the Eastern District of New York, sitting in Brooklyn. While a judge, Judge Gleeson authored more than 1,500 published opinions (including 14 opinions for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, sitting by designation).

He also presided over more than 200 civil and criminal jury trials. He was assigned numerous Multidistrict Litigations, including two antitrust class actions against Visa and MasterCard and the Air Cargo antitrust cases. Judge Gleeson served on the Judicial Conference Committee on Defender Services for nine years (including three years as Chair). The Defender Services Committee is responsible for the nearly $1 billion per year program that provides effective defense counsel to the 80% of federal defendants who cannot afford to retain counsel.

Before his appointment to the bench in 1994, Judge Gleeson was a federal prosecutor in the same courthouse for 10 years. He served as Chief of Appeals, Chief of Special Prosecutions, Chief of Organized Crime and Chief of the Criminal Division. He personally tried 20 cases to verdict, argued 25 appeals in the United States Courts of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and also argued appeals in Third and Sixth Circuits.

Among the numerous high-profile cases he tried, Judge Gleeson was the lead prosecutor in the murder and racketeering convictions of John Gotti and Victor Orena, the bosses of the Gambino and Colombo Families of La Cosa Nostra, respectively. Judge Gleeson received the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award for his service in the Gotti case.

Prior to becoming a federal prosecutor, Judge Gleeson was a litigation associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore for four years and a law clerk for the Hon. Boyce F. Martin, Jr. on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Judge Gleeson has taught law for 29 years. For the past 23 years, he has taught courses in Complex Federal Investigations and Sentencing at New York University School of Law. Prior to that, he taught at Brooklyn Law School and was the John A. Ewald, Jr. Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law.

He is a co-author of the widely used treatise Federal Criminal Practice: A Second Circuit Handbook, which is now in its 18th edition.

Judge Gleeson is a member of the American Law Institute, a trustee of the Vera Institute of Justice, and a member of the Advisory Boards of the Program on Corporate Compliance and Enforcement and the Center on Civil Justice at NYU School of Law.

Judge Gleeson’s other publications include “The Ulysses Cases and What They Reveal About Lawyers and the Law,” James Joyce Quarterly (2015); a chapter titled “Objections” in Winning at Trial: Insights From the Bench and Leading Litigators (2014); “The Sentencing Commission and Prosecutorial Discretion: The Role of Courts in Policing Sentencing Bargains,” Hofstra Law Review(2008); “The Road to Booker and Beyond: Constitutional Limits on Sentence Enhancements,” Touro Law Review (2006); “Supervising Federal Capital Punishment: Why the Attorney General Should Defer When U.S. Attorneys Recommend Against the Death Penalty,” Virginia Law Review (2003); “Supervising Criminal Investigations: The Proper Scope of the Supervisory Power of Federal Judges,” Journal of Law and Social Policy (1997); “Sentence Bargaining Under the Guidelines,” Federal Sentencing Reporter (1996); and “The Federalization of Organized Crime: The Advantages of Federal Prosecution,” Hastings Law Journal (1995).

Judge Gleeson’s awards include the following: The National Legal Aid and Defender Association’s Exemplar Award (2018); The Client Service All-Star Award, BTI Consulting Group (2018); The Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law, University of Virginia (2016); Honorary Doctor of Laws, Northern Kentucky University (2016); The Distinguished Jurist in Residence, Cornell Law School (2016); The Distinguished Jurist Award, Defense Association of New York (2016); The Judicial Recognition Award, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (2015); The Hon. William Brennan Award for Outstanding Jurist, New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (2014); The Green Bag Exemplary Writing Award, for United States v. Dossie (2013); The Green BagExemplary Writing Award, for United States v. Ovid (2011); Special Recognition Award, New York Criminal Bar Association (2009); and The Hon. Edward Weinfeld Award, New York County Lawyers’ Association (2008)

Judge Gleeson earned his J.D from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1980 and his B.A. from Georgetown University in 1975.

Recent speaking engagements include:

  • “We are Witnesses,” The Marshall Project, October 2018, New York, New York.
  • “Monitors as Stewards of Effective Compliance,” New York University School of Law,
  • Program on Corporate Compliance, October 2018, New York, New York.
  • “A Night to Celebrate,” Gideon’s Promise, Special Guest Speaker, September 2018, New York, New York.
  • “No-Entry Programs in the Federal System,” ABA Criminal Justice Section Annual Meeting, August 2018, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Speaker Summer Intern Program, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, July 2018, Brooklyn, New York.
  • Speaker on Former Judges Panel, U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, May 2018, New York, New York.
  • “White Collar and Criminal Procedure,” Harvard Law School, April 2018, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • “No-Entry Programs in the Federal System,” University of Virginia Law School, April 2018, Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • “Sentencing Reform from the Bench: The Emerging Role of District Court Judges,” New York University Law School Annual Survey of American Law, March 2018, New York, New York.
  • “Sixth Annual Criminal Law Update,” Federal Bar Association, March 2018, Central Islip, New York.
  • “No-Entry Programs in the Federal System,” Harvard Law School, March 2018, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • “Trends in Sentencing & Alternatives to Incarceration Under the Trump Administration,” Federal Bar Council, December 2017, New York, New York.
  • “Ethical Issues that Arise at Trial,” Practising Law Institute, November 2017, New York, New York.
  • “Alternatives to Incarceration in the Eastern District of New York,” Third Circuit Reentry Summit, July 2017, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Capital Defense Training Program, Keynote Speaker, Association of the Bar of the City of New York, July 2017, New York, New York.
  • “Saving Communities, Changing Lives: The No-Entry Response to Mass Incarceration,” Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, July 2017, San Francisco, California.
  • “Former White Collar Defendants Speak,”6th Annual White Collar Crime Institute, Association of the Bar of the City of New York, May 2017, New York, New York.
  • “How to Win a Case From a Judge’s Perspective,” New York State CLE Board, April 2017, New York, New York.
  • White Collar and Criminal Procedure, Guest Lecturer, Harvard Law School, April 2017, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • “President Obama’s Clemency Initiative: Perspectives From the Released and Their Advocates,” Federal Bar Council, November 2016, New York, New York.
  • “Federal Prosecution and Sentencing in an Era of Addiction,” United States District Court, District of Maine, October 2016, Maine.
  • 11th Annual New York Conference on International Arbitration in North America, Speaker, International Chamber of Commerce, September 2016, New York, New York.
  • “The Role of Courts in Managing the Collateral Consequences of Convictions,” Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations, September 2016, New York, New York.
  • “Special Purpose Courts,” National Workshop for District Judges, Federal Judicial Center, July 2016, San Diego, California.
  • “Restorative Justice and Federal Court Sentencing: A Case Study,” The Association for Conflict Resolution for Greater New York, June 2016, New York, New York.
  • Commencement Speaker, Northern Kentucky University, May 2016, Highland Heights, Kentucky.
  • Commencement Speaker, Salmon Chase College of Law, Northern Kentucky University, May 2016, Highland Heights, Kentucky.


  • University of Virginia School of Law, 1980, J.D.
  • Georgetown University, 1975, B.A.

Bar Admissions:

  • New York


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