Thomas E. Starnes

Phone: (202) 230-5192 (202) 230-5192
Fax: (202) 842-8465


Thomas E. Starnes counsels clients in commercial and environmental litigation. Having worked on significant environmental cases for more than 25 years, Tom’s environmental litigation practice is now concentrated in defending and prosecuting high-stakes, multiparty cost recovery claims under CERCLA and analogous state statutes.

Tom also handles complex general civil and appellate litigation matters. He has substantial experience representing major religious denominations and their affiliated institutions in property, employment and other litigation matters, with an emphasis on cases that raise significant First Amendment issues involving church governance. Tom has appeared on behalf of denominations in such cases both directly and as amici curiae in trial and appellate matters the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee and Florida state courts, and in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.


  • Defending affiliated companies against statutory and common law claims brought by the State of New Jersey to recover cleanup costs, property damage and economic loss allegedly incurred as a result of dioxin contamination in the Passaic River and Newark Bay.
  • Prosecuting a 20-party cost recovery action -- while simultaneously defending a state enforcement action -- involving a client's investigation and remediation of a 1,200-acre former chemical plant site along Lake Erie.
  • Representing one of 10 defendants -- and joining in the prosecution of multiple third-party claims -- to allocate $250 million in EPA-incurred response costs at a Superfund site near the Houston Ship Channel.


Bar Admissions

  • District of Columbia


  • George Washington University Law School, J.D., 1983, honors
  • University of Maine, B.A., 1980, high distinction

Court Admissions

  • U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, District of Columbia


  • United Methodist Church Conference Chancellors Association President (2012), Exec. Committee (2009-13)
  • Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church, Chancellor (2004 – Present)
  • Foundation of Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC, Director (2010-13)
  • District of Columbia Bar Association
  • General Council of Finance and Administration of The United Methodist Church, Committee on Legal Responsibilities (1992 – 2000)