Holland & Knight has signed on former U.S. Attorney John Brownlee as partner in the firm's Northern Virginia and Washington offices. Brownlee, who ran the U.S. Attorney's office in the Western District of Virginia from 2001 through May 2008, started work Monday in the enforcement defense and government contracts practices.
He joins the firm after making an unsuccessful run for the Republican nomination for Virginia state attorney general. Brownlee campaigned on promises to fight abortion, illegal immigration and drug trafficking. The nomination went to Virginia state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, who is currently leading his Democratic rival, state Del. Steve Shannon, in the polls. (Shannon is special counsel to the law firm of Odin, Feldman & Pittleman in Fairfax, Va.)
Brownlee, 44, garnered some headlines in 2007 when he settled with Norwalk, Conn.-based Purdue Pharma, maker of the painkiller OxyContin, for $634.5 million. Purdue Pharma avoided criminal charges for allegedly misbranding OxyContin by striking a nonprosecution agreement with the government.
Settling that case resulted in Brownlee’s name being included among the list of U.S. attorneys that Michael Elston, then chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, recommended for firing. Brownlee ultimately kept his job though nine other U.S. attorneys were terminated.
“I knew them and they were my friends. They were all very strong U.S. attorneys who did their job well at a difficult time for this country,” Brownlee said. “It was an unfortunate situation for the Justice Department, and it could have been handled a lot better. I’m proud to have served with them.”
He has also served in the U.S. Army reserves and was a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps from 1997 to 2007, when he was honorably discharged as a major.
From 1997 to 2001, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in D.C.
At Holland & Knight, Brownlee’s practice will focus on domestic and international enforcement defense matters and related civil litigation. He will also be involved in the firm's False Claims Act practice and in handling mandatory disclosure matters, internal investigations, and inspector general and grand jury investigations. He said he will spend the majority of his time in the firm’s Northern Virginia office, but will also work in the firm’s Washington office on occasion. He said his family has already started moving from Roanoke, Va. to Northern Virginia to be closer to the firm’s offices.
“My family and I are extremely excited to be joining Holland & Knight. There are a lot of very professional and very ethical lawyers at the firm whom I can learn from and hopefully contribute to as well,” Brownlee said.