John Elwood

Partner, Vinson & Elkins LLP

John has considerable experience litigating in the Supreme Court and the federal courts of appeals, and has substantial knowledge on constitutional, criminal, administrative, employment, and environmental issues. Before joining the firm, John served in senior-level positions in the U.S. Department of Justice. Beginning as an Assistant to the Solicitor General, and continuing with the firm, he has briefed or argued more than a dozen merits cases before the Supreme Court of the United States, and has briefed over 100 cases at the certiorari stage. As the senior Deputy in the Office of Legal Counsel, he advised the White House and senior agency officials on a range of constitutional, statutory, and regulatory matters. John represented the Justice Department as an ex officio member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission and as a member of the Advisory Committee on Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. John also has argued numerous cases in the federal courts of appeals and tried several criminal cases in federal district court.

The 2010 edition of Chambers USA reports that "Clients consider [John's] addition 'an immediate enhancement to Vinson & Elkins's appellate group: he is a much-loved and widely respected lawyer who is quick on his feet.'" 

John has received both the Attorney General's Award for Exceptional Service and the Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service - the Justice Department's two top awards for lawyers.

  • Yale Law School, J.D., 1993 (Senior Editor, Yale Law Journal)
  • King's College, M.A. with distinction, first in class, 1990
  • Princeton University, A.B. summa cum laude, 1989 (Phi Beta Kappa)

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Publications and Multimedia
Hands Off My Raisins: Supreme Court Decides Horne v. Department of Agriculture - Podcast
Environmental Law & Property Rights Practice Group Podcast
June 25, 2015
Elonis v. United States - Post-Decision SCOTUScast
SCOTUScast 6-11-15 featuring John Elwood and Kent Scheidegger
June 11, 2015
Supreme Court Rules on Facebook Threats – Elonis v. United States - Podcast
Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Podcast
June 09, 2015
Horne v. Department of Agriculture - Post-Argument SCOTUScast
SCOTUScast 4-24-15 featuring John Elwood
April 24, 2015
Raisin Growers Back in the Supreme Court – Horne v. USDA - Podcast
Environmental Law & Property Rights Practice Group Podcast
April 23, 2015
National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning Post-Argument SCOTUScast
SCOTUScast 1-16-14 featuring John Elwood
January 16, 2014
Recess Appointments in the Supreme Court: Noel Canning - Podcast
Labor & Employment Law Practice Group Courthouse Steps Podcast
January 14, 2014
Recess Appointments: Implications of Noel Canning - Event Audio/Video
2013 National Lawyers Convention
November 20, 2013
The Supreme Court Rules: Collection of DNA - Podcast
Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Podcast
June 25, 2013
The Limits of Recess Appointment Authority - Podcast
Federalism & Separation of Powers, Financial Services & E-Commerce, Labor & Employment Law, and Litigation Practice Groups Podcast
April 12, 2013
Your DNA: Maryland v. King - Podcast
Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Podcast
April 03, 2013
Zivotofsky v. Clinton - Post-Decision SCOTUScast
SCOTUScast 04-03-12 featuring John Elwood
April 03, 2012
M.B.Z. v. Clinton - Post-Argument SCOTUScast
SCOTUScast 11-18-11 featuring John Elwood
November 18, 2011
Honest Services Fraud: What's Left? - Event Audio
Chicago Lawyers Chapter and Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group
March 14, 2011