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Self-Styled Mediator Has Work Cut Out for Him

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By Nikita Stewart and David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 23, 2008

At his confirmation hearing last week, Acting D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles described himself as a mediator who can bring people together.

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For example, Nickles said, there is the sour relationship between D.C. Council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), and between Brown and Deputy Mayor Neil O. Albert.

On the Fenty front, Nickles said, much can be resolved with a chat at Ben's Chili Bowl. He recalled being at the home of half-smokes and running into Marshall Brown, Kwame Brown's father.

"The gentleman said, 'Mr. Nickles, I'm Kwame Brown's dad. Why can't Kwame and the mayor get along better?' " Nickles testified.

Not so fast. Marshall Brown, informed of Nickles's remark, said, "Isn't that interesting? . . . I may have met him, but I don't remember that conversation."

Kwame Brown did not want to comment.

"I'm going to leave that one alone," he said, adding that being a mediator for the mayor "sounds like a job of the general counsel." (That's a reference to council criticism that Nickles acts more like a general counsel than an attorney general.)

Brown had plenty to say, however, about himself and Albert. Brown is chairman of the Committee on Economic Development, and Albert's deputy mayor position puts him in charge of economic development and planning for the administration. Brown has complained that he can't get information from Albert.

"Peter has to sit in on the meetings or Neil and I can't meet," Brown said. "Maybe he has made Neil understand it's illegal to withhold information."

They Came to Praise Him

Speaking of Peter J. Nickles, he pulled out some heavy hitters to support him at the confirmation hearing: former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, now a member of Nickles's old law firm Covington & Burling; former Army secretary Togo D. West Jr.; Police Chief Cathy Lanier; Carol Fennelly, Hope House director (and mother of Carrie Brooks, Fenty's chief of staff); and Shelley Broderick, dean of the University of the District of Columbia law school.

All five had worked with Nickles in a variety of capacities and spoke glowingly of him as a man of intelligence, integrity, a strong work ethic and a passion for serving people, especially the poor. Tagliabue called Nickles his "mentor and teacher."

He recalled joining Covington as a young associate 40 years ago and meeting Nickles, who showed him the ropes. Later, when Tagliabue was named to run the NFL, he called on Covington, and Nickles, to handle a major anti-trust lawsuit filed by the players union that went all the way to the Supreme Court. In that case, the NFL had attempted to establish a "developmental squad" of players who would be paid $1,000 apiece. The union objected, saying it would limit free trade. Nickles handled the case, which the NFL lost in federal court.


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