WASHINGTON — With most of his cabinet nominations confirmed or in the confirmation process, President Obama is moving now to name his choices for second-tier, hands-on agency administrators, and he is finding a number of them in law schools.
The president recently announced the nominations of Jon Cannon, who teaches at the University of Virginia School of Law, as deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Seth Harris, a professor at New York Law School, as deputy secretary of the Department of Labor.
Cannon is currently a professor of environmental law as well as the director of the Environmental and Land Use Law Program at the University of Virginia. He also has served as senior counsel at Washington’s Beveridge & Diamond.
Before joining the University of Virginia, Cannon served in numerous positions within the EPA during the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations, eventually rising to general counsel. Before becoming general counsel, he was deputy general counsel for litigation and regional operations, deputy assistant administrator for civil enforcement, deputy assistant administrator of the Office of Solid Waste Emergency Response (OSWER), acting assistant administrator for OSWER, assistant administrator for administration and resource management and chief financial officer.
Cannon earned his J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Harris, the nominee for Labor deputy secretary, was most recently the Obama Transition Project’s Agency Working Group leader for the labor, education, and transportation agencies. He is the director of labor and employment law programs at New York Law School.
During the Clinton administration, Harris served as counselor to the secretary of Labor and acting assistant secretary of Labor for policy, among other policy-advising positions. He graduated cum laude from New York University School of Law.
The Department of Homeland Security also is filling out its next tier positions.
President Obama has tapped Department of Justice career lawyer John Morton as his nominee to head DHS’ key component: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Morton, nominated to be assistant secretary, has lengthy experience in immigration enforcement and criminal prosecution. He began his career as a trial attorney in the honors program in 1994 and now serves as acting deputy assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division. From September 2007 until last month, he was acting chief of the Domestic Security Section and senior counsel to the assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division, and prior to that, he was deputy chief of the Domestic Security Section. In those roles, he was responsible for the prosecution of criminal cases and the development of department policy in the areas of immigration crime, particularly human smuggling and complex passport and visa frauds; human rights offenses, particularly torture, war crimes, genocide and the use of child soldiers; and international violent crime, particularly violent crime under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA).
From 1999 to 2006, he was as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Major Crimes and Terrorism units of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Before that, he served for two and a half years as counsel to the deputy attorney general, focusing primarily on immigration matters.
The president also nominated Esther Olavarria to be deputy assistant secretary for policy at DHS. Most recently, she was a senior fellow and director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, where she was responsible for planning, developing and administering the organization’s work on immigration issues, with a principal focus on policy and advocacy strategies on comprehensive immigration reform; planning and convening roundtables and other venues for discussion, and conducting research and writing on immigration issues.
Before joining the Center, Olavarria was counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees for nearly a decade. In that capacity, she served as Kennedy’s chief counsel on immigration, border security, refugee and nationality matters, working on myriad immigration proposals, including comprehensive immigration reform. She has also served as the managing attorney of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center; directing attorney of the American Immigration Lawyers Association Pro Bono Project; and staff attorney at the Haitian Refugee Center, all based in Miami.