Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden Announces Leadership Staff Positions in the Environment and Natural Resources Division
Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) announced the appointment of key positions within his leadership staff.
Varu Chilakamarri – Chief of Staff
As Chief of Staff, Chilakamarri will advise Assistant Attorney General Cruden on strategic goals and initiatives, serve as a liaison to senior leadership offices and work on special projects, including helping to coordinate the development of the division’s new animal welfare program.
“Varu is an outstanding lawyer, and a dedicated and accomplished public servant who has already proven herself in a variety of challenging positions with this Justice Department,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden. “We are lucky to have her now with the Environment Division and I look forward to drawing on her wise counsel, impeccable judgment and administrative skill as we carry out our mission.”
Ms. Chilakamarri has served as a career attorney in the Justice Department for the past nine years, most recently joining ENRD’s Appellate Section earlier this year. Prior to that, she served in the Office of the Associate Attorney General, where she advised department leadership on Civil Division litigation, national security cases, immigration reform and worked to improve agency coordination in the enforcement of federal animal welfare laws. Ms. Chilakamarri joined the Justice Department in 2006 through the Attorney General’s Honors Program as a Trial Attorney in the Civil Division’s Federal Programs Branch, where she was lead counsel representing federal agencies in a broad range of cases concerning the constitutionality of government policies, programs and statutes. She was the recipient of an Attorney General’s Award for Outstanding Service in 2013 and she has also received awards from the Civil Division for her work on preemption cases involving state immigration laws, including in United States v. Arizona. Before joining the Justice Department, she clerked for Judge R. Guy Cole in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and Judge Timothy B. Dyk in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Ms. Chilakamarri graduated from Georgetown University Law Center, where she was Order of the Coif and Articles Editor for the Georgetown Law Journal. She earned degrees in Environmental Science and Political Science from Ohio State University, with honors.
Patricia McKenna – General Counsel and Attorney Educational Coordinator
Assistant Attorney General Cruden named Patricia McKenna to the newly created position of General Counsel and Attorney Educational Coordinator. In this role, Ms. McKenna has the dual responsibility of formulating and coordinating legal policies, plans and objectives on matters related to employee and labor relations, contract and procurement law, appropriations law and other programmatic, operational, administrative and general legal issues as well as serving as the principal division official responsible for managing, overseeing and administering ENRD’s attorney training program. This new position places renewed emphasis on the importance of attorney training in the division.
“Patricia’s depth of experience makes her an ideal candidate to strengthen the human capital of the division and lead efforts to continually train and equip ENRD attorneys so they can grow professionally,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden. “With her valuable leadership and talent, I believe we can hone the skills that in turn will strengthen our representation of the United States in federal court.”
Ms. McKenna has been an attorney with the Environmental Enforcement Section (EES) of the Environment and Natural Resources Division for 16 years, the last nine as a Senior Attorney supervising EES matters in the Northeast and the Caribbean. She has broad experience representing the United States in all of the major pollution control statutes and has worked extensively on environmental issues in the Caribbean, most notably the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewage Authority and Virgin Island Water and Power Authority cases. In addition, during her time at EES she has been actively involved in hiring and training for the division. Ms. McKenna has also received multiple awards within the department, including the Attorney General’s John Marshall Award in 2002 and the Drenaye Houston Mentor Award in 2013, as well as many awards from the Environmental Protection Agency for her outstanding work. Ms. McKenna began her career as a law clerk for Magistrate Judge A. Simon Chrein in the Eastern District of New York and spent three years as a general litigation associate at O’Melveny & Myers, LLP in New York City. She graduated Order of the Coif from the College of William & Mary, Marshall Wythe School of Law and graduated magna cum laude from Siena College.