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 new head of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division pledged that the nation’s top polluters will pay for the damage they caused to the environment and said she would work with other countries to protect air and water quality.
Ignacia S. Moreno, who has been on the job since November, was formally installed during a ceremony in the Great Hall of the Justice Department’s Robert F. Kennedy building on Friday afternoon.
Attorney General Eric Holder and Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli were on hand for the ceremony.
Perrelli praised Moreno’s work thus far and said she had a deep commitment to environmental law and a broad understanding of the entirety of the division’s work.
Holder, who was given a standing ovation when introduced by Perrelli, thanked the audience, joking that he should “perhaps should stop here” and that the support was “especially nice today” – an allusion to news reports earlier Friday that the White House might overrule the Justice Department’s decision to try alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian courts.
Moreno, said Holder, “has a deep understanding of regional concerns, she also brings a global perspective to addressing environmental challenges.”
“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,” he said.
U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo M. Urbina was on hand to administer Moreno’s oath of office and praised Moreno’s past work, calling the swearing in a proud day for the Hispanic community.
In her speech, Moreno recalled coming to the U.S. from Colombia, where she was born and lived until age six, and landing at JFK airport in New York in the middle of a major snowstorm. “I remember, vividly, the excitement that I felt when I saw snow for the first time. I can’t say I’ve felt the same way recently,” she joked of D.C.’s recent blizzard.
Moreno said she saw her parents work their way towards the American dream.
“We came to America with great hope, and our experience has greatly exceeded out expectations,” Moreno said. “For this reason I have always asked, ‘What can I give back for all that I have received?’ For me, the answer has always been public service, whether through my work at the Department of Justice or through my pro-bono activities. And friends, let me tell you there is no better place to give back than at the United States Department of Justice and in the Environment and Natural Resources Division.”
Moreno, who during the confirmation process had been criticized by some Environmental Protection Agency attorneys because of her work at General Electric, reaffirmed her commitment to environmental justice.
“In appropriate cases, we will work with companies who step up to the plate. But let me be clear [...] polluters will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Moreno said.
Taking a swipe at the George W. Bush administration’s enforcement of environmental laws, Moreno noted that when she recently met with key leaders of the environmental justice community, “they told me that they had not been in this building in nine years. That was our first meeting, and it will not be our last.”
The ceremony ended with a rendition of “This Land Is Your Land” as sung by The Nine Inch Margins, a group made up of lawyers in the appellate section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Video embedded below.