John C. Cruden

John C. Cruden's picture

John C. Cruden is the fourth President of the Environmental Law Institute (ELI). Cruden joined ELI from the U.S. Department of Justice, where he served as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, a position he had held since 1995. He was raised in Michigan and is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, University of Santa Clara (summa cum laude, 2006 Alumni Special Achievement Award), and University of Virginia (honors). He is a member of the bars of the District of Columbia and California, a number of federal courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

At the Department of Justice, Cruden supervised all federal civil environmental litigation involving agencies of the United States, and oversaw the Environmental Enforcement Section and Environmental Defense Section. He has personally litigated and led settlement negotiations in numerous environmental cases, many with reported decisions. He has also led Department of Justice delegations to international environmental conferences. Prior to becoming Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Cruden was Chief, Environmental Enforcement Section.

Before joining the Department of Justice, Cruden was the Chief Legislative Counsel of the Army. After graduating from West Point, Cruden served in airborne, ranger, and Special Forces units in Germany and Vietnam before attending law school. After working for Justice Stanley Mosk, California Supreme Court, he attended the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Graduate Course where he was named outstanding graduate. His subsequent military assignments include: criminal prosecutor in Germany; Chief of Litigation Branch, Europe; General Counsel, Nuclear Defense Counsel; Staff Judge Advocate; and Professor, Judge Advocate General’s School, Charlottesville, VA. His military education includes being a Fellow, Army War College and Honor Graduate, Command and General Staff College.

Cruden has on three occasions received the Presidential Rank Award from three different Presidents. He has also received the Department of Justice’s Muskie-Chaffee Award, the Federal Bar Association’s Younger Award, and the American Bar Association’s Mary C. Lawton Award for Outstanding Government Service. Cruden’s military awards include the Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star.

Cruden has served as the President of the District of Columbia Bar, the second largest bar in the nation, and Chairman of the ABA Section of the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources. He has also served on the Board of the National Conference of Bar Presidents and is a current member of the Judicial Conference of the District of Columbia Circuit’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services. He is a frequent lecturer for ALI-ABA and is listed in Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who in American Law. In 2007, he was listed by a national magazine as one of the top 500 lawyers in America.

Cruden is a swim coach for the Special Olympics and a past recipient of Fairfax County’s Volunteer of the Year award for his work with mentally handicapped children. He is married and has two children.


  • President, Environmental Law Institute