Fenty to Name Nickles D.C. Attorney General

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty plans to nominate Peter Nickles as the District's permanent attorney general, according to city government sources, and a majority of D.C. Council members said yesterday that they will likely support the choice.

Fenty (D) has not publicly announced his selection. But several council members said the mayor has asked them to support Nickles, 69, his former general counsel who has been serving as interim attorney general since Linda Singer resigned in December.

Under city law, Nickles can serve six months on an interim basis, a term that expires July 3. On Friday, he moved from the general counsel's third floor office at the John A. Wilson Building to the attorney general's suite on the fourth floor.

Nickles declined to comment yesterday.

His appointment would be controversial in some quarters. A longtime corporate litigator at Covington & Burling and a friend of Fenty's parents', Nickles has a brusque, hard-charging style that has irritated many who work for him. Singer cited frustration that he had bigfooted her as a key reason for her departure.

He has been closely involved in developing several controversial initiatives, including the recent police checkpoints in Trinidad. And, although most mayoral appointees are required by law to live in the District, Nickles resides with his wife in Great Falls.

Some employees in the attorney general's office said morale is at a low point, in part because Nickles recently fired eight lawyers, citing budget constraints and poor performance. The lawyers sued him in Superior Court, and Nickles reinstated three of them Friday.

"I would say there are broader concerns within the office, but what could we do?" said Stephen Anderson, a city lawyer who heads the union that is supporting the fired attorneys. "He sends out fiats, and everyone snaps to it."

A majority of the 13 members on the council said yesterday that they are inclined to support Nickles, who has said previously that he would comply with the residency requirement if he is nominated. Council members said they expect Nickles to live in the District if he is appointed.

"He's very capable as AG," Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said. "He's a good lawyer with lots of contacts in the legal community."

Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) cited Nickles's move this spring to place 13 dilapidated housing complexes into court receivership to get slumlords to comply with city laws as the kind of aggressive strategies the city needs.

"I like the way he has stuck his neck out on things," Graham said. "We are used to a lot of legal timidity in the District."

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