Joan E. Donoghue

Joan E. Donoghue was first elected a judge of the International Court of Justice on Sept. 9, 2010 – only the third woman chosen to be a member of the court. The General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations then re-elected her for a nine-year term beginning Feb. 16.

Established in 1945 and located in The Hague, Netherlands, the International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Composed of 15 judges, it adjudicates between countries and its legal opinions are binding. The court also issues advisory opinions when requested to do so.

From her previous work for the U.S. Department of State to her current position, Donoghue has pursued a distinguished career in international law. In support of her nomination for a second term, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remarked, “Since joining the court in 2010, Judge Donoghue has demonstrated exceptional intelligence, integrity and independence in addressing the diverse and complex issues that come before the court. Her knowledge, temperament and commitment to the rule of law make her an outstanding choice for this important position.”

As principal deputy adviser from 2007 to 2010, Donoghue was the State Department’s senior career lawyer, and served as the acting legal adviser to the president and secretary of state for the first six months of the Obama administration. She advised on the application of human rights law and drafting United Nations resolutions, as well as oversight of legal work relating to maritime law and treaty approval processes. She also implemented President Obama’s executive orders on Guantanamo, including detention and interrogation.

Prior to her service at the State Department, Donoghue served as general counsel and corporate secretary for Freddie Mac, and as deputy general counsel for the Department of the Treasury.

She has taught at several U.S. law schools and has lectured widely on international law and adjudication.

“Joan Donoghue has played a pivotal role in three important and different institutions,” said Paul Mahoney, dean of the University of Virginia School of Law. “As general counsel of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, she managed the legal affairs of a Fortune 500 enterprise that operates in a unique and complex legal environment. As principal deputy legal adviser, and acting legal adviser, to the State Department, she helped direct a large legal office that advises one of the world’s most complicated organizations on some of the world’s most delicate legal issues. As justice of the International Court of Justice, she participates in resolving highly contentious issues and fostering the progressive development of international law.”

Donoghue was born in 1956 in Yonkers, New York. In 1978, she graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with honors degrees in Russian studies and biology. She received her juris doctor in 1981 from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.

Her past awards include the Secretary of State Distinguished Honor Award, the Presidential Rank Award and honors from the Federal Bar Association.