News & Politics

Is Irv Nathan the Anti-Nickels?

Mayor Gray slammed Fenty's DC attorney general Peter Nickles during the campaign, but Gray's own pick for the job doesn't share his boss's strong views.

DC’s new mayor, Vincent Gray, doesn’t have anything nice to say about Peter Nickles, the District’s attorney general under former mayor Adrian Fenty.

As one of the heavily criticized members of Fenty’s administration, Nickles was accused of politicizing the Office of the Attorney General and acting as Fenty’s personal lawyer at the expense of his responsibility to represent the city’s interests.

Gray called for Nickles’s resignation last July during his primary campaign against Fenty, likening him to the mayor’s “hatchet man.” And when Gray tapped the city’s new attorney general, Irv Nathan, in December, the announcement was tinged with digs at Nickles. “Nathan will join me in taking politics out of the office,” Gray said.

Nathan, however, doesn’t share his boss’s strong views. “Peter Nickles is a very talented, energetic lawyer who was dedicated to the best interests of the District,” Nathan says, adding that he and Nickles have met to discuss the attorney general’s job: “He provided a lot of good advice.”

Nathan comes to the position from Capitol Hill, where he was general counsel to the US House of Representatives.

One immediate difference between Nathan and Nickles is that Nathan has chosen to work out of an office at the One Judiciary Square building with most of the lawyers on his staff. “I want to be part of that team,” he says. During his tenure, Nickles worked steps away from the mayor in the Wilson Building, further bolstering his image as Fenty’s—and not the District’s—top lawyer.

Nickles and Nathan both were partners at old-line Washington law firms—Nickles at Covington & Burling, Nathan at Arnold & Porter. Both men have taught at Georgetown University Law Center. And both just got back from exotic winter holidays—Nickles from Hawaii, Nathan from South Africa.

Nickles has since returned to Covington & Burling. At age 72, he is senior counsel there, not partner. He’s developing a crisis-management group for the firm, which he says will provide clients with a one-stop solution for media relations, lobbying, congressional investigations, and litigation needs. Other members of the new practice include former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

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Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 and was a senior editor until 2022.