Last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill will be of paramount importance for a long time to come, Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno said on Thursday in outlining the 2011 priorities for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, which she heads.
Speaking to the District of Columbia Bar Association at the law firm Hunton & Williams in downtown Washington, she laid out a road map of the division’s goals and spoke at length about the enforcement of environmental laws. Reviewing the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the DOJ’s ongoing civil and criminal investigations, she noted that the DOJ filed a lawsuit last month against nine defendants, including BP and Transocean, in connection with the spill.
“Deepwater Horizon has become the Division’s top priority and will remain so for the foreseeable future,” Moreno said.
She was tight-lipped some data about the number of civil and criminal lawyers contributing to the investigations. But she did say she was working with Assistant Attorney General Tony West of the Civil Division and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Jim Letten, and other U.S. Attorneys in the Gulf region, plus other federal agencies conducting investigations. She also said depositions would begin Jan. 18.
Acknowledging that estimates about the extent of the spill have varied, she said experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies are still trying to determine just how much oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico.
Her division also works closely with the Environmental Protection Agency, and she noted that the majority of the division’s civil enforcement cases are referred by the EPA. She said upholding the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act remain important priorities, along with maintaining hazardous-waste cleanups. And she said it was important that corporate America become increasingly involved in the conversation about those efforts.
Moreno said her division will continue to place a high priority on enforcing greenhouse gas regulations, protecting natural resources and maintaining national security. The division’s last main priority is addressing the needs of Native Americans, including Alaskans, working closely with client agencies and tribal leaders resolving tribal trust litigations.
Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno said Wednesday the Justice Department hasn’t sent enough of its staffers into communities to work one-on-one with people.
Moreno and Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez were among six panelists discussing enforcement and compliance efforts at the White House Forum on Environmental Justice. The panel followed remarks by Attorney General Eric Holder.
During the discussion, Moreno said that although environment justice is “critically important…one of the things we [at DOJ] haven’t done is send our lawyers out in the community to talk one-on-one.” She went on to say that working with residents, local leaders and communities is essential to making strides in environmental justice.
In the future, Moreno continued, “you’re going to be seeing more of our lawyers talking to you” in community settings. She added that it is essential to have career lawyers working with communities to ensure that, once DOJ officials leave an area, there is someone who remains to continue their work.
“We come and go on the political level, but you need to have career people who are always going to be there,” she said. “It’s going to take time, but we have the commitment.”
Another key component to improving environmental justice is getting corporate counsel to be more social responsible, Moreno said. “They need to think about what the needs of the community are,” she said. “They need to be good neighbors.”
Moreno emphasized the collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency, saying, “We are more embedded with our colleagues with EPA than ever before.”
At an event in the Great Hall Monday honoring the contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is working to “[live] up to its responsibility to provide a work environment where every employee is respected and given an equal opportunity to thrive.”
Holder also pointed to the Obama administration’s accomplishments on LGBT issues including the new federal hate crimes law — the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act that the president signed into law in October — and the Justice Department’s recent decision that the Violence Against Women Act covers same-sex partners.
“We have much to celebrate today. In the year since we last gathered, our nation – and the Justice Department – have taken steps to address some of the unique challenges faced by members of our country’s LGBT community,” said Holder in remarks at the annual DOJ LGBT Pride Month event.
DOJ Pride was founded in 1994, and flourished when Janet Reno was Attorney General. Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales later banned the group from using Justice Department facilities. Attorney General Michael Mukasey welcomed DOJ Pride back to the Great Hall in 2008, and DOJ Pride President Chris Hook said the event has grown in size since the Obama administration took over in January 2009.
During his remarks, Holder also touted the DOJ’s new Diversity Management Plan — which calls for greater diversity in such areas as hiring, promotions and retention — and the appointment of former acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Channing Phillips to manage the implementation of the plan as Deputy Associate Attorney General for Diversity.
“With this initiative, and with Channing’s leadership, we’re working to ensure that the department can effectively recruit, hire, retain, and develop a workforce that reflects our nation’s rich diversity, a department that welcomes and encourages the contributions of its LGBT employees,” Holder said.
Holder did not address some of the controversies that LGBT advocates have raised with the Department of Justice, such as the DOJ’s defense of the Defense of Marriage Act and the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez introduced the keynote speaker, U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan, the first openly gay federal prosecutor to head a U.S Attorney’s office.
“What a difference two years makes,” Durkan said. “Today I stand before you as the first openly gay U.S. Attorney. But I can promise you I’m not the last. In fact, today there are three Senate confirmed openly gay U.S. Attorneys in America.
“Two followed me. I started a trend. But I do want to point out, they’re all women. So guys, you need to step it up,” Durkan joked.
She also praised Holder’s work on the LGBT issues, saying that “there is nobody more committed to equality and justice across America than our Attorney General Eric Holder.”
Sharon Lubinski, the first openly gay U.S. Marshal, also spoke at the ceremony and was introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
Officials in attendance at the event included Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Tony West; Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno of the Environment and Natural Resources Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Jim Letten; U.S. Attorney for Minnesota B. Todd Jones; U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman; and Chris Dudley, Deputy Director of the U.S. Marshals Service.
DOJ Pride also gave out three awards, including to two local advocates for same-sex marriage. D.C. Councilmember David A. Catania, the force behind the law that made same-sex marriage legal in the District of Columbia, received the Gerald B. Roemer Community Service Award along with Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. Gansler was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia under then-U.S. Attorney Holder.
Hook received the James R. Douglass Award for his leadership of DOJ Pride. He took over in 2006, when the group had shrank dramatically during the Bush administration, but it has since grown back to the size it was during the Clinton administration.
Hook made it clear when he took over the organization in 2006 that DOJ Pride “did not intend to go into hiding,” said Marc Salans, Assistant Director of the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management, who presented the award.
The event was sponsored by the Department of Justice, the Justice Management Division’s Equal Employment Opportunity staff and DOJ Pride.
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When she sat down to her first staff meeting with the Environment and Natural Resources Division, Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreo says she knew every face in the room from her seven-year stint at the Justice Department during the Clinton administration.
Moreno was sworn in before the ENRD’s 100th anniversary celebration in November and had her formal installation ceremony in March. She has oversight over ENRD’s work, which covers a variety of environmental issues from the impact of the border fence to the effect of sonar on whales to prosecuting violations of environmental regulations. ENRD was also named the most popular place to work in the federal government.
In an interview with Main Justice Moreno spoke about ENRD’s work with the EPA, the division’s 2010 budget, building relationships with environmental groups, and the “cracker jack” team which helps her manage the division’s case load. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.
Main Justice: Just to start out, could you talk a little bit about what your average day is like? How do you manage such a large portfolio of issues?
Ignacia Moreno: First of all my days could not be more interesting. I really have had the opportunity to work on issues that cut across all of the federal agencies and a lot of U.S. government interests that affect people’s lives. I can tell you that I never ever have a boring day. The way to manage such a broad scope is of course with a great team, and I have the good fortune to have both an amazing career team with a very deep bench, and I’ve also been able to bring in a cracker-jack political team to compliment the career team.
I have one career deputy who has been here for a long time, John Cruden I call him ‘Mr. Enforcement,’ Patrice Simms, Bob Dreher and Ethan Shenkman and together they really bring a broad scope of government experience, academia, public interest group [experience]. Ethan Shenkman was here before, Bob Dreher was at EPA, Patrice Simms was at EPA. All of these folks have been in really all of the different places where you’d want to look to for a political team. So it’s a great team, of course my chief of staff [Natalia Sorgente] who was an environmental defense lawyer with the division, and we’ve really been able to hit the ground running.
The first day I sat in this conference room at the head of the table and looked around and I knew everybody, and worked with the section chiefs for seven years when I was here during the Clinton administration, so it was really a wonderful moment to see that I was back home.
MJ: You had been here for seven years during the Clinton administration. What has changed between the year you left and when you came back?
IM: We do have a new and growing set of issues that really weren’t a focal point when I was here before, and one of those areas is we’re doing a lot more work on behalf of our client agencies in the area of military preparedness. We’re working with the Department of Homeland Security to defend some strategic border initiatives. There are lots of issues regarding the same disposal of obsolete chemical weapons. We’re very, very much focused on national security issues, homeland, defense, and I expect that we’re going to be doing an increasing amount of that work.
Another area that we had started doing work when I was here [before] is international issues. As you know, pollution doesn’t respect borders. There are a number of global issues — global pollution issues — that do have impact back here in the U.S. So we are partnering a lot more with our neighbors and our partners abroad. We are also focusing on new Lacey Act criminal enforcement actions to stop the illegal trafficking in protected species and in timber that comes to the United States in products. Increasingly, we’re going to be working with the government in China, our counterparts there, and in Brazil. The Attorney General recently visited Brazil and I’m going to be going later this summer to follow up on some cooperative enforcement initiatives.
The other area were we would like to meet is just a really large number of tribal trust cases. We have about 98 lawsuits which involve about 114 tribes, and the tribes allege mismanagement of trust funds and resources by the Department of the Interior. It is a priority of mine, and of Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli and [Interior Department] Solicitor General Hilary Tomkins, for us to work with tribal leaders to come up with a fair and expeditious solution in these cases. Those are three new areas that are different from when I was here. And then there’s a lot that is the same, we still have some of the cases from when I was last here.
MJ: You mentioned there’s more of a national security aspect to your job than there was during the Clinton administration. How do those issues effect environmental law?
IM: It comes up in a number of ways, for example, some strategic border initiatives such as the construction of the border fence. Our division would be involved in the element of the land acquisition and in the defense of takings cases. In fact, this year we have several trials. We are the component — we used to be called the Public Lands Division — that is involved in the acquisition of the land for the construction of the border fence. Our defense of challenges under the National Environmental Policy Act — NEPA — for example the Navy is doing exercises. …They have to prepare for conditions in the oceans, and to the extent that their exercises impact protected species such as whales. We have a case in the Supreme Court in which we defended the Navy’s use of mid-range, mid-frequency SONAR in its military preparedness exercises. There was a claim that we shouldn’t do that because of the impact on whales that had not been litigated. So it comes up, and NEPA is a statute that is 40-years-old this year that I do a lot of work under.
MJ: Your office defends the work of the government and also prosecutes and litigates environmental crimes. Is there a way to work proactively to make sure that the government is complying with environmental standards?
IM: I hope that one of the hallmarks of my tenure here is going to be that I am very proactive in having early consultations and often consulting with our client agencies to make sure that as they are taking significant federal actions that they are complying, for example, with NEPA. NEPA requires the agencies to take a hard look to make sure there are not going to be significant environmental effects and that the agency work to mitigate those effects. We could sit and wait for those complaints to come. But we really are engaged in working with our agencies, especially in this time of great growth and innovation so that they are complying with the law, complying with procedures [so] that [if] the agency decisions get challenged, the agencies will be in a more defensible position. We [can] say, ‘Yes, they took all the steps that were necessary.’
We also have agencies like the Defense Department or the Department of Energy which have historic or legacy pollution problems, they are a member of Superfund sites. So we work with them and we work with the EPA to make sure that to the extent that they must address their pollution issues, that they do so. We have a very vigorous Superfund enforcement program, and we will make sure that the polluter will pay, and when it’s the government, we work with our agencies to make sure that they meet their obligations as well.
But you bring up an important point – we have a whole side of our work that is defense, both on the pollution and natural resource side, and then we have a whole side of our work that’s the affirmative agenda, where I feel like we wear the white hat, and we do prosecute criminal cases and civil cases under a multiple number of statutes.
MJ: Do you think it is possible for there to be a shift in the balance — obviously it’s tough to anticipate how many cases you’ll have to defend — but will there be a more aggressive prosecutions that will shift the weight of what that division does?
IM: The way it works is that the defense cases come to us. We have an administration that is engaged in a lot of important issues, and EPA has any number of rules that are going to be coming out and we are already preparing to defend — because somebody will challenge some of these rules. So the cases come to us. We have about 7,500 cases on our docket right now, and it is almost an equal mix of defense and enforcement cases. We have plans to have vigorous and renewed enforcement. …Our folks are going to be working even harder than they work, because we’re not going to minimize our enforcement agenda given the defense challenges. We just balance it.
MJ: You had mentioned at your installation ceremony that you had met with some environmental groups who hadn’t been here [the Justice Department Building] in a number of years. Could you talk a bit about building relationships with these groups?
IM: Sure, my specific reference was to environmental justice leaders, and I was struck by what they said, that they hadn’t been in this building in nine years. It is important to me that I hear not only from the environmental justice community, but the environmental groups, I’ve had them here as well. In fact, it was one of the first things I did hear, reach out to environmental groups, environmentalists and the environmental justice community. I’ve had multiple meetings with my counterparts at client agencies to hear what it is they’re doing, what it is we can do to help.
And I will be meeting with some industry groups as well, as well as counterparts abroad. I’ve done this so that I can hear from these different interests ideas that they have for how we might focus our priorities, to hear what’s worked, and what hasn’t worked. I think we do our best in service of the American people when we hear from the American people and all of these different interests.
The pollution burdens that effect certain communities are very important to me. A lot of people call it environmental justice, that’s what I call it too, and the president and the Attorney General have also spoken about this. I am very focused with the team here, both the career team and the political team, to see how we can make environmental justice a reality in this country. I personally worked on environmental justice guidelines the last time that I was here and I came back thinking I really want to work on cases. So with EPA, we’ve been engaged in a dialogue to see how we focus the resources, what cases we bring, to match up with the priorities that EPA has articulated.
MJ: One of the early criticisms that environmental groups brought up during the nomination process was your work with GE [General Electric], but there hasn’t been much criticism since. Do you think your time at GE brought you experience that helps in your role here?
IM: I will say that all of my experience has helped me. It’s really amazing how at some point in the day I’ll think ‘I’m glad I did that.’ There’s no question the seven years I spent here were invaluable to me, and the time that I spent at GE as well as in the private sector, again, I consider those assets. I really do have a 360-degree view that is very helpful in my thinking about how things will play out and how best to meet some of the challenges. I couldn’t be more committed, and I intend to have a very strong enforcement program.
MJ: Under the budget request for next year, the division requests money for tribal trust litigation and criminal and civil enforcement. What are some of the things you hope to do in those areas?
IM: Well in the tribal trust cases, we do have as I mentioned earlier a very large docket of cases and it’s not just the number, the cases are highly, highly complex. We do have a need for resources to meet the litigation demands that are brought by those cases. I’m hoping that we will be able to, in parallel, engage in a settlement process with tribal leaders. We have already done some outreach to begin that process. These cases will take some time, even in an expedited process to resolve, so the additional resources are going to help us be on both of those tracks.
On the other side of the house, we are looking at opportunities to bring affirmative cases. We also litigate to protect tribal sovereignty and tribal resources and to resolve some of the cases through settlement or litigation if we can’t settle, than we can rededicate some of those resources. But right now, we are thinking that we are going to need to just engage at that additional level on those cases.
On the criminal level and on the civil enforcement side, we have very large cases under the new source of review provisions of the Clean Air Act. Again, very complex cases, but if you’ve seen some of our more recent press, we are achieving some settlements, and those settlements come from vigorous enforcement efforts, they’re born from those activities. EPA is looking to expand into new sectors, from the coal fire power plant sector where a lot of the litigation has been to the cement industry and glass manufacturing…. There are going to be any number of — already ongoing but more — Clean Water Act enforcement, including to address treasured waters like the Chesapeake Bay right in our backyard.
On the criminal side, I mentioned earlier the Lacey Act, illegal trafficking in wildlife, flora and fauna, we are doing a lot more work in that regard. I’ve started meeting with U.S. Attorneys across the country, and I’m smiling because I’ve been doing a lot of traveling and will be doing a lot more to partner with them and help establish some important task forces. These are local, federal, state law enforcement officers investigators and some of the lawyers. We launched the task force, and I learned that we got five referrals coming out of that meeting. Important referrals, they’ll address really egregious problems in those communities that we need to protect. So I’m excited about those efforts. We get the cases from EPA and EPA is raring to go.
MJ: Any cases that you are especially proud of or any trends you see emerging?
IM: I’m very excited about what we’re going to do in environmental justice and in the international program and the tribal issues. These are things that are already in the works, you’ve already been seeing some of them. Our criminal program as well, I think you’re going to be seeing more of that. I guess the thing that I see as most exciting every day is that I have this opportunity to come here and do this work.
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Dr. Sharon Malone, the wife of Attorney General Eric Holder, recounted Tuesday how the Department of Justice intervened to allow her older sister to go to school at the University of Alabama in the 1960s. Malone spoke at an event in celebration of Women’s History Month.
Speaking in the Great Hall of the Justice Department, Malone’s remarks centered on her sister, Vivian Malone Jones, who was one of the first African Americans to enroll at the all-white University of Alabama. Malone recalled how in June 1963, then-Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach escorted Jones past then-Gov. George Wallace, a segregationist, in an incident now known as “the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.” Jones eventually earned a degree at the school and later worked at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. She died in 2005.
“My husband isn’t the first Attorney General who took an interest in my family,” joked Malone, who is an obstetrician/gynecologist in private practice.
Holder told a local Girl Scout troop in attendance for the event to look around the room, pointing out women in leadership positions within the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the Drug Enforcement Administration. “This is your future, you can do anything,” said Holder.
In introducing his wife, Holder joked that she would probably agree that he is in touch with his feminine side. He also recounted the night he met Malone, who at the time was completing her medical residency. Up until that point Malone wasn’t sure if she’d stay in D.C., Holder said.
“But she met a tall, handsome young man and decided to stay in D.C.” he said. “I also met her that night,” he added, jokingly. The couple will celebrate their 20th anniversary on April 7, said Holder.
Also speaking at the event were Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Laurie Robinson and Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division Ignacia Moreno. Moreno reflected on the diversity of the federal government under President Barack Obama.
“The leadership of our nation has never looked more like America, and we are not going back,” said Moreno.
After the ceremony, Malone, Holder, Robinson and Moreno posed for pictures with the Girl Scout troop.
Attorney General Holder Delivers Remarks at the Installation of Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno Washington, D.C. ~ Friday, March 5, 2010
Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to join with so many colleagues and friends, and some very proud family members, as we celebrate this milestone in Ignacia Moreno ’s distinguished career. I know that Ignacia ’s family had to work around a couple of unexpected snow storms to be here, and we’re honored to have you all with us. I also want to thank my former colleague and good friend Judge Ricardo Urbina and Dennis Zotigh for participating in today ’s ceremony and helping us mark this very special, and very happy, occasion.
It’s my privilege to welcome Ignacia back to the Department of Justice.
I have no doubt that she will fulfill her new responsibilities with the same energy, integrity, and dedication that characterized her prior service. And I ’m grateful that she has enthusiastically accepted the opportunity to lead our Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Ignacia has the experience and broad perspective necessary to lead this work. She shares this Administration ’s strong commitment to environmental justice. And she was instrumental in developing and implementing the Department’s strategy to fulfill President Clinton’s Executive Order on Environmental Justice. In doing so, I assure you she did more than sit behind a desk drafting policy statements. In fact, she personally engaged in federal and state efforts to address pollution communities along the U.S.-Mexico border. She spent time in these areas. And she succeeded in improving access to safe drinking water for these residents.
Today, Ignacia stands ready to build on those achievements and to reinvigorate the Department’s commitment to environmental justice. Under her leadership, I know our Environment and Natural Resources Division will redouble its efforts to ensure that our most vulnerable communities are not disproportionately burdened by environmental and health hazards, and that these communities will be encouraged to participate in making local environmental decisions.
She’s shown outstanding leadership and initiative in forging partnerships across the administration, particularly with our colleagues at the Department of the Interior. And I’m heartened that she often points to the tribal values she’s observed – the philosophy that “our purpose on this Earth is to protect this Earth” – as guideposts for the work she now leads.
Although Ignacia has a deep understanding of regional concerns, she also brings a global perspective to addressing environmental challenges. During the Clinton Administration, she helped to develop this Department ’s international outreach efforts, recognizing that our most pressing environmental problems often require global solutions. In particular, she forged partnerships with our closest neighbors – Mexico and Canada – and helped to launch enforcement initiatives to reduce transboundary pollution. In the months ahead, I know that our Environment and Natural Resources Division will be a strong partner in the administration’s efforts to engage the international community in addressing climate change and other global environmental issues.
Ignacia, I congratulate you on your appointment. I thank you for your service to this department, to the American people, and to future generations who’ll inherit the world we now share. I look forward to continuing our work together.
Ignacia S. Moreno, who was formally installed Friday as Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, announced her top leadership team.
From the Justice Department news release:
Natalia Sorgente, Chief of Staff and Counsel—Sorgente returns to ENRD to serve as counsel and chief of staff after a brief departure from the division. Sorgente served in the Environmental Defense Section as a trial attorney where she defended the United States’ environmental regulations, determinations and past practices in federal district and appellate courts. She has broad environmental law experience, including representing the United States in cases brought under all the major pollution control statutes. In her five years with the division, she received multiple awards in recognition of her outstanding work. Preceding her return to ENRD, she was a senior legal fellow at Alliance for Justice working with the Judicial Selection Project. After clerking for U.S. Judge Norma L. Shapiro, she began her career at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison in New York litigating high-profile civil and criminal matters. Sorgente holds degrees from New York University School of Law and Harvard College with honors.
Robert Dreher, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General— As a seasoned environmental lawyer, Dreher has extensive experience in conservation policy, environmental law and natural resources management. He has represented environmental organizations, federal agencies, tribes and businesses in a variety of environmental matters. Dreher previously served as senior vice president for Climate Change and Conservation Law and General Counsel of Defenders of Wildlife. Prior to this, he served as Deputy Executive Director of the Georgetown Environmental Law & Policy Institute at Georgetown University Law Center, and as deputy general counsel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Earlier in his career, he was a staff and co-managing attorney of the Washington, D.C. office of the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (now Earthjustice). Representing tribes, government agencies, businesses and environmental groups in solo private practice, he served as counsel to the law firm Troutman Sanders LLC and as an associate at the Boston firm Hill & Barlow. He has taught federal natural resources law at The George Washington University Law School and at Georgetown University Law Center. Dreher received his J.D. from Yale Law School, a Masters in American Civilization from Brown University, and his undergraduate degree from Harvard College.
Dreher will oversee the Natural Resources and Wildlife and Marine Resources sections.
John Cruden, Deputy Assistant Attorney General—Cruden has served as a career Deputy Assistant Attorney General for ENRD since 1995. Prior to his role as deputy, he served as chief of the division’s environmental enforcement section and as special counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. Cruden has extensive personal experience litigating complex environmental cases and has served as Acting Assistant Attorney General on multiple occasions. Before attending law school, he served in airborne, ranger and special forces units in Germany and Vietnam. After receiving his law degree, he clerked for the California Supreme Court and then attended the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Graduate Course where he was named the outstanding graduate. Subsequent military assignments included criminal prosecutor in Germany; chief of litigation branch, Europe; general counsel, Defense Nuclear Agency; and chief of administrative and civil law, Judge Advocate General’s School. His last assignment in the Pentagon was chief legislative counsel for the Army. Cruden is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, University of Santa Clara summa cum laude and University of Virginia with honors.
Cruden will oversee the Environmental Enforcement and Environmental Crimes sections.
Ethan G. Shenkman, Deputy Assistant Attorney General—Shenkman returns to the Justice Department where he had previously served for nine years. Most recently, Shenkman was a partner at the WilmerHale law firm, which he joined in 2004. He was a member of the Government and Regulatory Litigation Practice Group and worked closely with the Appellate and International Arbitration Practice Groups. His practice focused on a wide range of complex litigation, including international disputes, investment treaty arbitration, appellate advocacy, environmental law and Indian law. He began with the Justice Department as a Bristow Fellow in the Office of the Solicitor General in 1995. He then joined the ENRD Appellate Section through the Attorney General’s Honor Graduate program and served as counsel to then-Assistant Attorney General Lois Schiffer. From 2001 to 2004 he was a member of ENRD’s Law and Policy Section. Prior to joining the Justice Department, he clerked for U.S. Judge Paul V. Niemeyer in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Ethan earned his J.D. from the University of Virginia, School of Law, where he was Order of the Coif and Editor-in-Chief of the Virginia Law Review, and his B.A. from Yale University, summa cum laude.
Shenkman will oversee the Appellate and Indian Resources sections.
Patrice Simms, Deputy Assistant Attorney General— Simms joins ENRD as an accomplished environmental attorney most recently serving on the law faculty at Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. Prior to this, Mr. Simms served as a government attorney and as an environmental advocate in many high-profile environmental cases, and other matters involving important legal, technical and policy issues. His experience includes more than five years as a staff attorney in EPA’s Office of General Counsel, and stints as a legal counsel to the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board and as a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. His career has focused on issues regarding the implementation and enforcement of the Clean Air Act and issues related to clean water, solid waste, public health, climate change and environmental justice. Mr. Simms has received many professional awards, including the EPA Office of General Counsel Award for Excellence. In 2009, he was elected to serve on the Steering Committee for the D.C. Bar’s Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Section. Mr. Simms is a graduate of Howard University School of Law.
Simms will oversee the Land Acquisition and Environmental Defense Sections.
Crystal Brown, Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General— Brown comes to ENRD after recently serving at the White House as deputy associate counsel for presidential personnel. Prior to this, she served as an associate at the law firm of Bryan Cave LLP where her practice focused on a range of commercial litigation and white collar defense and investigation matters. Earlier in her career, she served as a judicial law clerk to U.S. Judge Clifford Scott Green in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In 2008, Brown was inducted into Temple University’s Gallery of Success as an alumna of the Beasley School of Law. She received her J.D. from Temple University Beasley School of Law, where she was symposium editor of its Political and Civil Rights Law Review. Brown received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Duke University.
Jeffrey Prieto, Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General— For ten years, Mr. Prieto has served as a trial attorney with ENRD’s Environmental Enforcement Section, prosecuting civil actions on behalf of federal agencies under all major federal environmental laws. He has served as co-counsel on major Clean Air Act civil enforcement cases including coal-fired power plant litigation. He also has served as lead attorney of a litigation team in Superfund enforcement cases, representing multiple federal agencies. Prieto’s positions have included attorney-advisor for the Environmental Protection Agency, White House Fellow and environmental planner. Mr. Prieto received his J.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Master’s of Public Affairs/Urban and Regional Planning from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
Paulo Palugod, Special Assistant to the Assistant Attorney General—Palugod joins the department from American University, Washington College of Law, where he will receive his J.D. in May. He received a B.A. in Economics from Bucknell University, cum laude.
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The Justice Department’s new Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division was sworn in Monday as the division celebrated its centennial.
Ignacia Moreno, who was confirmed on Nov. 5, later appeared at a ENRD celebration with Attorney General Eric Holder and former acting Assistant Attorney General John Cruden.
The event at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center brought together several hundred ENRD employees and alumni to celebrate the history of the division, which was retold through a multimedia presentation by Georgetown University Law Center Professor Richard Lazarus, formerly an attorney with the division.
Edwin Kneedler, Career Deputy Solicitor General, received the Muskie-Chafee Award. That award honors a current or former federal employee who has made significant contributions to protecting the environment, public lands and natural resources, and fulfilling the nation’s responsibilities to Native Americans, according to the Justice Department.
In September, Moreno defended her experience as a counsel for General Electric Co., which has been at odds with environmental groups. Some Environmental Protection Agency attorneys had expressed concerns about Moreno because of her work at GE, according to a report by ProPublica, a non-profit investigative web site.
Andrew Ramonas contributed to this story.
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The Senate confirmed four Justice Department officials by unanimous consent tonight.
-Laurie O. Robinson (Office of Justice Programs Assistant Attorney General): The OJP Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and former office chief will succeed Bush OJP head Jeffrey Sedgwick, who resigned in January. She was nominated Sept. 14. Read our previous report on Robinson here.
-Carmen M. Ortiz (Massachusetts U.S. Attorney): The Massachusetts Assistant U.S. Attorney will replace Michael J. Sullivan, who stepped down in April to join a law firm headed by former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Read more about Ortiz here.
-Ed Tarver (Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney): The Georgia state senator and partner at Augusta, Ga., law firm Hull, Towill, Norman, Barrett & Salley will succeed Edmund A. Booth Jr., who resigned earlier this month. Read more about Tarver here.
-Benjamin Wagner (Eastern District of California U.S. Attorney): The Assistant U.S. Attorney will succeed McGregor Scott, who resigned in January. Wagner was nominated Aug. 6. Read more about Wagner here.
The Senate has now confirmed 21 U.S. Attorneys. The chamber must still consider three more U.S. Attorney nominees that were reported out of committee today.
Robinson is the second Assistant Attorney General to be confirmed today. The Senate confirmed Ignacia Moreno as the next Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division earlier this evening. There are three more Assistant Attorney General nominees waiting for confirmation in the Senate, including long-stalled Dawn Johnsen for the Office of Legal Counsel.
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The Senate confirmed Ignacia Moreno as the next Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division tonight by a 93-0 vote.
The former counsel for General Electric Co. was nominated June 8 and reported out of committee Sept. 24. She will succeed Ronald Tenpas, who resigned in January. Read more about Moreno here.
The full Senate still must vote on four more Assistant Attorneys General. Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen has waited the longest for a vote in the full Senate. Obama nominated her for the post Feb. 11 and she was reported out of committee March 19.
This post was updated from an earlier version.