As a Florida Board Certified Aviation Attorney who has been practicing for almost 37 years, I am frustrated by the failure of some FAA attorneys in key positions to recognize important aviation concepts, and what appears to be an anti-aviation bias by the FAA when resolving aviation legal issues of first impression (I am not referring to FAA enforcement matters here, although that is a significant problem area with regard to due process and fairness by the FAA). IMHO, one reason the FAA often doesn’t seem to "get it" when it comes to dealing with aviation legal matters that may be unique and not routine is the fact that there are FAA attorneys in management that have been given those positions despite having no prior aviation background. They then rely on the advice of career FAA employees (attorneys and non-attorneys) whose primary focus seems to be not ruffling feathers by making a decision that may be viewed as controversial or “outside the box,” even if it is the proper decision. For example, look at the background of the top 2 FAA attorneys, Chief Counsel Katie Thomson and Deputy Chief Counsel Marc Warren. Fine attorneys with stellar backgrounds, but kind of like putting a podiatrist in charge of your cardiac care—the training and experience just isn’t related to the task at hand. Sorry, Katie and Marc.
Kathryn B. Thomson, FAA Chief Counsel
Katie Thomson was appointed Chief Counsel of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on January 23, 2012. In this role, she is the agency's senior legal officer and supervises a staff of approximately 300 across the country. From April 2009 to her appointment at FAA, Katie served as Counselor to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, where she was the Secretary's principal advisor on energy, climate, and environmental matters. Katie led theTransportation Department team that developed historic joint fuel/greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger cars and trucks and heavy duty vehicles. These new standards, taken together, will nearly double the fuel economy of passenger vehicles by 2025 and reduce oil consumption by more than 2.2 million barrels per day. Katie played a critical role in the development and implementation of President Obama's Blueprint for a Security Energy Future and represented the Department at the 2009 and 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conferences in Copenhagen and Durban. During her tenure at the Department, Katie spearheaded a number of other priority interagency projects, including: the negotiation and development of a new, long-haul, cross-border trucking program with Mexico; and the implementation of the U.S. strategy for responding to the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme as applied to international aviation. Katie also served as the Department's Senior Sustainability Officer. In that capacity, she was responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of the Department's strategic energy and sustainability targets. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Katie practiced for 19 years at the law firm of Sidley Austin in Washington, D.C. As a partner in the firm's environmental group, she focused on civil and criminal litigation, compliance counseling, and regulatory advocacy — with an emphasis on the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, hazardous waste management spill reporting, and hazardous materials transportation enforcement and compliance matters. A graduate of University of Illinois (summa cum laude) and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Katie resides in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband Chris Lu. In her free time, she is an avid marathoner and triathlete.
Marc Warren, FAA Deputy Chief Counsel
Before assuming his current position, he was the Executive Director of the American Inns of Court Foundation in Alexandria, Virginia. He had previously served as the Deputy Chief Counsel for Operations at the FAA. Prior to his FAA appointment, Warren served in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps, from which he retired in 2007 after having been selected for promotion to Brigadier General. A native of Tampa, Florida, Warren received both a B.A. (1978) and J.D. (1981, with honors) from the University of Florida; an LL.M. (1993) from The Judge Advocate General's School, U.S. Army (TJAGSA), Charlottesville, Virginia; and a Master of Strategic Studies (2002) from the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. He is a member of the bars of Florida, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and the U.S. Supreme Court; and co-holder, with the late Colonel Waldemar A. Solf, of the Solf-Warren Honorary Chair in International and Operational Law, TJAGSA. He is a Professorial Lecturer in Law (Adjunct Professor) at The George Washington University Law School. He was the American Bar Association Outstanding Young Army Lawyer, received the Florida Bar Association Clayton B. Burton Award of Excellence, and is in the University of Florida Hall of Fame. Commissioned as an ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate, his military schooling includes the Infantry Officer Basic Course; Judge Advocate Officer Basic, Advanced, and Graduate Courses; Command and General Staff College; U.S. Army War College; and Airborne, Air Assault, Jumpmaster, Pathfinder, and High Risk SERE Schools. He served as the Special Assistant to The Judge Advocate General and as the Staff Judge Advocate (senior attorney) for Combined Joint Task Force 7/Multi-National Forces in Iraq, V Corps in Iraq and Germany, and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). He was the Legal Advisor for the Joint Special Operations Command; Regimental Judge Advocate for the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment; and served in numerous other assignments as a Judge Advocate in the United States, Germany, Grenada, Bosnia, Kuwait, and Iraq, including on the faculty of the International and Operational Law Department of TJAGSA. His awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and Meritorious Service Medal; and the Master Parachutist, Pathfinder, and Air Assault badges. He was the Editor of the Operational Law Handbook and has published articles in the Army Lawyer, Military Law Review, Naval War College International Law (Blue Book) Series and various other military and legal professional publications.