Three Northeastern Law Grads Join Biden-Harris Administration


Left to right: Professor Shalanda Baker ’05, Melissa Hoffer ’98 and Emma Leheny ’97
1.20.21 — Professor Shalanda Baker ’05, Melissa Hoffer ’98 and Emma Leheny ’97 have been named to senior leadership positions in the Biden-Harris administration: Baker has been appointed deputy director for energy justice in the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the Department of Energy; Hoffer has joined the Environmental Protection Agency as principal deputy general counsel; and Leheny is principal deputy general counsel (serving as acting general counsel) in the Office of the General Counsel in the Department of Education.“We are thrilled that these exceptional graduates have been appointed to high-level positions in the new administration,” said Dean James Hackney.

Baker, a leading expert on environmental and energy law, joined the Northeastern Law faculty in 2017. The following year, she co-founded the Initiative for Energy Justice to support the delivery of equity-centered energy policy research and technical assistance to policymakers and frontline communities across the country. She also worked closely with colleagues in Northeastern’s Global Resilience Institute, linking it to the School of Law’s Center for Law, Innovation and Creativity (CLIC). She is the author of Revolutionary Power: An Activist’s Field Guide to the Energy Transition (Island Press 2021). In her new role, the first of its kind, Baker is charged with designing, building and driving the Biden-Harris administration’s initiative to move 40 percent of all climate investments to frontline, environmental justice communities. Baker will be on a leave of absence from the School of Law during this appointment.

Hoffer previously served as chief of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Energy and Environment Bureau, overseeing the work of the bureau’s attorneys on matters including prosecuting civil and criminal enforcement of environmental laws, energy policy, ratepayer advocacy, defensive cases and affirmative advocacy, including litigation in support of EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. She was the architect of more than 200 lawsuits and other actions the state filed over the past four years against the Trump administration’s rollbacks of protections. In 2020, Hoffer was inducted as a fellow into the American College of Environmental Lawyers and received a 2020 Meritorious Service Award from the National Association of Attorneys General.

Leheny was previously senior counsel with the National Education Association, the nation’s largest professional employee organization. Prior to that, she was chief counsel of the California Teachers Association (CTA), directing all legal work for CTA, a labor organization of more than 300,000 public education employees. Earlier in her career, she practiced education, labor and employment law for a decade in private practice. In 2014, Harvard Law School selected Leheny as a Wasserstein Fellow as part of a program recognizing outstanding public interest lawyers. In 2015, Leheny received the Peggy Browning Award for her career achievements in labor law. Leheny began her career as a judicial clerk for the Honorable Warren J. Ferguson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and then as a Skadden Fellow, representing low-income parents pursuing higher education.

About Northeastern University School of Law

The nation’s leader in experiential legal education, Northeastern University School of Law offers the longest-running, most extensive experience-based legal education program in the country and is a national leader in legal education reform. Founded with cooperative legal education as the cornerstone of its program, Northeastern guarantees its students unparalleled practical legal work experiences. All students participate in full-time legal placements, and can choose from the more than 1,500 employers worldwide participating in the school’s signature Cooperative Legal Education Program. The future of legal education since 1968, Northeastern University School of Law blends theory and practice, providing students with a unique set of skills and experience to successfully practice law.

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