President Barack Obama has nominated an East Bay attorney to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Australia.

The White House last week announced Jeffrey Laurence Bleich, 48, of Piedmont, is the president's pick to head "down under," subject to the U.S. Senate's confirmation.

Bleich, who has known Obama for about two decades, was a significant California spokesman and fundraiser for Obama's presidential campaign who co-chaired or hosted a series of events including one that Obama attended at Bleich's home in June 2007. He had said in November he wasn't actively seeking an administration position, but the president named him a special counsel to the president in March.

He holds a bachelor's degree from Amherst College, a master's in public policy from Harvard University, and a law degree from UC Berkeley's Boalt School of Law. He clerked for Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 1989-90; for U.S. Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 1990-91; and Judge Howard Holtzmann of the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal at The Hague in 1991-92 before earning a certificate of study in public and private international law at the Hague Academy of International Law in the Netherlands in 1993.

He joined Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP in 1992, became a partner in 1995 and remained there until this year. California Lawyer magazine named him the state's Attorney of the Year in 2006, and he spent at least five consecutive years on the Daily Journal's Top 100 listing of the state's most influential attorneys.


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In 2008, he served simultaneously as chairman of the California State University Board of Trustees and as the president of the State Bar of California; he also has taught international human rights at Boalt Hall, and has written and lectured on the international criminal court. He headed the American Bar Association's Amicus Curiae Committee as well as a subcommittee on Corporate Social Responsibility. He has been an officer or member in foreign policy organizations including the Council on Foreign Relations, the ABA Section on International Law, the Pacific Council on International Policy, the International Law Association, the American Society of International Law, and Human Rights Watch.

He and his wife, Rebecca Pratt Bleich, have two sons and a daughter.

The past two U.S. Ambassadors to Australia were Tom Schieffer, a former business associate of President George W. Bush, and Robert McCallum, a Bush college friend. A career diplomat assumed temporary responsibility for the embassy when Obama became president in January; that person, former Deputy Chief of Mission Dan Clune, also is a Boalt Hall graduate.

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