Chris Kavanaugh

  • Lecturer

Chris Kavanaugh is a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville, where he serves as counsel to the U.S. attorney, senior litigation counsel, and the district’s chief national security prosecutor.  In this role, he investigates and tries a wide variety of cases, with a focus on federal civil rights violations, domestic terrorism, and threats to national security.

Kavanaugh led the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation and prosecutions of acts of domestic terrorism committed during the Unite the Right riots of August 11-12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.  These cases included the hate-crimes prosecution of a white supremacist who intentionally drove his vehicle into a crowd of protestors, killing one and injuring dozens more.   

Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney's Office in Charlottesville in 2014, Kavanaugh spent seven years with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, where he served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Appellate, Major Crimes, Homicide, Fraud and Public Corruption, and National Security sections and trained newly appointed assistant U.S. attorneys in evidence and trial skills. 

In 2015, Attorney General Eric Holder awarded Kavanaugh the Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service for the prosecution and trial of four Blackwater contractors for their role in the Nisour Square Massacre in Baghdad, Iraq in 2007.  For his work on the Blackwater and Unite-the-Right prosecutions, the Anti-Defamation League has awarded Kavanaugh its SHIELD Award in both 2016 and 2019 for “significant contributions towards protecting the American people from hate crimes, extremism, and domestic and international terrorism.”  

Kavanaugh received an engineering degree from Georgia Tech in 2002, graduating summa cum laude.  In 2006, he received his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, after which he clerked for U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris of the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria.

Kavanaugh has served as a member of the adjunct faculty of the Law School since 2012, where he teaches Federal Criminal Practice and Trial Advocacy.  He has also served on the Alumni Council at the UVA Law School Foundation.



  • J.D.
    University of Virginia School of Law
  • B.A.
    Georgia Institute of Technology