At a Glance
- Career History:
Partner, WilmerHale (2004-2010); attorney,
Department of Justice
, ENRD (1995-2004)
- Hometown: Pound Ridge, N.Y.
- Alma Mater: Yale University, B.A., 1989; University of Virginia, J.D., 1994
- Spouse: Jennifer Jacobsen
Path to Power
Raised in New York state by a lawyer (his father) and English professor (his mother), Shenkman graduated from Yale summa cum laude in 1989.
He went on to attend the University of Virginia Law School, where he was Order of the Coif and editor-in-chief of the Virginia Law Review.
During his first stint with the Justice Department, Shenkman worked on many important cases relating to environmental issues and Indian tribal rights. Some of his more notable work was on cases that helped define the scope of the Clean Water Act. At Wilmer Hale Shenkman switched sides somewhat, representing corporations, sometimes in opposition to government interests. He worked many international cases, often defending corporations in conflict with foreign governments over investment and environmental issues.
Clean Water Act
In the early 2000s, Shenkman was involved in several cases that helped define the scope of the Clean Water Act, with mixed success for the federal government. He was successful in arguing that digging trenches to drain wetlands, which involves "sidecasting" of soil and other materials, constitutes discharge of a pollutant and is thus restricted by the Clean Water Act. This case was all the more impressive because it was decided by the notably conservative Fourth Circuit. Later court decisions, however, undermined the authority of the federal government to protect wetlands.
Shenkman worked with his current boss, Ignacia Moreno, during his first stint in the Justice Department; she was already working for the Environment and Natural Resouces Division when he was appointed there. Both were close advisers to then-ENRD Chief Assistant Attorney General Lois Schiffer.
While working in private practice for WilmerHale, Shenkman worked closely on several major international cases with Obama's first deputy attorney general, David Ogden. When Ogden was first appointed in 2009, Shenkman praised him as "one of the brightest lawyers and greatest legal strategists I have ever worked with."
Shenkman donated $1,000 to John Kerry's presidential campaign in February 2004, and $2,000 to Barack Obama's campaign in July 2008.