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Jonathan Benner, former Federal Bar ‘Transportation Lawyer of the Year,’ joins Thompson Coburn’s D.C. office

March 12, 2012

Thompson Coburn LLP is pleased to announce that Jonathan Benner has joined the firm’s Washington, D.C., office as a partner and practice leader. He will chair the firm’s Maritime Regulatory and Ports Practice and add significant depth and experience to Thompson Coburn’s Transportation and International Trade Practice Group, which is one of the largest and most sophisticated of its kind in the nation.

The firm’s Transportation and International Commerce Practice Group includes many of Benner’s former colleagues and associates in both government and private practice, and they are delighted that Benner has chosen to rejoin them at Thompson Coburn. In fact, Benner was an early pioneer of the development of an integrated transportation practice. He has significant experience in all modes of transportation, first as managing partner of the D.C. office of Haight Gardner Poor & Havens, then as practice group leader of Troutman Sander’s Transportation Practice in Washington, D.C. He most recently worked as a partner at Reed Smith.

“We have all benefitted from Jonathan’s vision and leadership with respect to serving the interests of the transportation sector in the nation’s capital,” said Warren Dean, chair of Thompson Coburn’s Transportation and International Commerce Practice Group and a member of the firm’s Management Committee. “We are excited to work closely with him again at Thompson Coburn. His decision to join the firm is a reflection of the firm’s strong commitment to this important practice.”

Benner’s practice focuses on international and domestic maritime and shipping matters, as well as trade regulation issues incidental to the global movement of goods and commodities. He appears regularly before federal trial and appellate courts, and federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission. During his government service, Benner served as General Counsel of the Federal Maritime Commission.

His practice includes high profile cases concerning the operation of ocean-going vessels and ocean ports. Those cases include constitutional challenges in federal courts to state and local regulation of maritime activity. Benner argued successfully the seminal case of Intertanko v. Locke [consolidated for argument with United States v. Locke] 529 U.S. 89 (2000), in the U.S. Supreme Court. Locke is one of the lead constitutional cases in the important field of federal preemption involving the foreign commerce of the United States. In recent years, his maritime practice has included significant environmental and trade sanctions issues.

“Jonathan adds profound depth to the impressive Supreme Court experience of Thompson Coburn’s D.C. office,” said firm Chairman Tom Minogue.

He noted that Dean argued successfully the constitutional challenge to federal port regulation in the landmark case of Federal Maritime Commission v. South Carolina State Ports Authority, 535 U.S. 743 (2002). Dean has been involved in other important Supreme Court cases in the transportation field, including representing the interests of U.S. airlines in El Al v. Tseng, 525 U.S. 155 (1999), involving the preemption of state law by the Warsaw Convention.

“The combined experience of Jonathan and Warren makes our D.C. office one of the nation’s leaders in handling controversies before the U.S. Supreme Court involving the regulation of transportation services,” Minogue said.

Benner’s honors and awards include being named 2009 Transportation Lawyer of the Year by the Federal Bar Association for “superb leadership and immeasurable contributions” in his field. In its national rankings of shipping lawyers, Chambers USA described Benner as “a premier practitioner [who] has earned credibility and respect within the industry sector and… he combines excellent strategic sense and top-notch negotiation skills with a strong presence in court.” 

Benner earned his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and obtained his undergraduate degree from the American University’s School of International Service.