John Farmer became dean of Rutgers School of Law–Newark in July 2009. From April 2013 until June 30, 2014 he was on a leave of absence to serve as Senior Vice President and University Counsel. He returned to the faculty as University Professor, effective July 1, 2014. Professor Farmer continues to hold an administrative post as Special Counsel to the President.
Professor Farmer received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, where he was a member of The Tax Lawyer and received first prize in the 1984 Lincoln and the Law Essay Contest. He received his B.A. from Georgetown University, with a major in English. He began his career as a law clerk to Associate Justice Alan B. Handler of the New Jersey Supreme Court. He then worked for two years as a litigation associate at Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Perretti LLP before joining the Office of the U.S. Attorney in Newark, where he prosecuted crimes ranging from kidnapping and arms dealing to bank fraud. In 1993 he received the U.S. Attorney General’s Special Achievement Award for Sustained Performance.
Professor Farmer joined the administration of New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman in 1994, serving as assistant counsel, deputy chief counsel, and then chief counsel. From 1999-2002 he was New Jersey attorney general. Among his noteworthy accomplishments, he argued school funding and criminal justice matters before the New Jersey Supreme Court and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals; moved forward with reform of the New Jersey State Police, from eliminating racial profiling to increasing diversity in recruitment and promotion; created the Office of Inspector General to investigate allegations of official impropriety and/or corruption; and served as the first chairman of the New Jersey Domestic Preparedness Task Force, leading the coordination of the state’s law enforcement and victim/witness response to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
From 2003-2004 Professor Farmer served as senior counsel and team leader for the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (commonly known as the 9/11 Commission). In that position he led the investigation of the country’s preparedness for and response to the terrorist attacks and was a principal author of the Commission’s final report. His book, The Ground Truth: The Untold Story of America Under Attack on 9/11, a reconsideration of the government’s 9/11 response in light of its response to Hurricane Katrina, was published by Riverhead/Penguin Press.
Professor Farmer has received the highest peer-reviewed rating from Martindale-Hubbell, and has been named a New Jersey Super Lawyer, one of New York Magazine’s Best Lawyers in the New York area, and one of the Best Lawyers in America. He was a partner in the white collar crime and internal investigations group at K&L Gates and in 2007 became a founding partner of the law firm Arseneault, Whipple, Farmer, Fassett and Azzarello, LLP. In addition to his law practice, in 2008 he served as senior advisor to General James Jones, Special Envoy for Middle East Regional Security, on development of the rule of law in the Palestinian Authority territory, and was invited by the U.S. Embassy in Armenia to assist that nation’s legislative commission in investigating widespread violence and unrest following its elections.
Professor Farmer has been a frequent contributor to the Star-Ledger and the New York Times, with essays and opinion columns on legal and political issues, and has had articles published in the Rutgers Law Review, Seton Hall Law Review, and other journals. His article on the Patriot Act, “At Freedom’s Edge,” was part of a Star-Ledger series that was awarded the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award for outstanding legal reporting in 2006. Dean Farmer has also lectured extensively on post 9/11 safety and security issues, and spoken on panels at Harvard Law School, the University of Southern California, Williamette Law School, and Johns Hopkins University’s Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.
Professor Farmer is president of the board of trustees of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and a former member of the New Jersey Governor’s Ethics Advisory Board.