In an interview with Legal Times today, Peter Nickles, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's general counsel, said he is considering Supreme Court veterans Walter Dellinger III and Thomas Goldstein as possible replacements for Alan Morrison to argue D.C.'s cause at the Supreme Court in the key gun control case of D.C. v. Heller.
"We'll be fine" in spite of Morrison's departure as special counsel to D.C. Attorney General Linda Singer, Nickles said. Nickles confirmed that he, in consultation with Mayor Fenty, decided to "go in a different direction" and remove Morrison. Nickles, who becomes D.C.'s acting attorney general on Jan. 6, says "it would not be appropriate" to say why Morrison was fired. In our post earlier today, Morrison speculated he was fired because he was viewed as a "loyalist" of Singer. In announcing her resignation last month, Singer complained of interference by Nickles.
Morrison is completing the city's brief in the case, aided by Dellinger, the former acting U.S. solicitor general who now heads O'Melveny & Myers' appellate practice, and Goldstein, who co-heads Akin Gump's Supreme Court practice. The brief is due Friday, which is Singer's next-to-last day as attorney general. Morrison was told to clear out his office by next Monday.
"It's a great brief very persuasive," said Nickles, a former litigator at Covington & Burling. "Alan's a terrific lawyer."
Nickles mentioned Dellinger and Goldstein by name and said D.C. Solicitor General Todd Kim and others in the attorney general's office would also be considered to replace Morrison as the oral advocate in the case, which will mark the first time in nearly 70 years that the Supreme Court will directly address the meaning of the Second Amendment's right to "keep and bear arms." The case will likely be argued in mid-March, though no date has been set.
"We've got the horsepower, and we will put it to work," said Nickles. "This is not a one-person effort, and these are very experienced people who were intimately involved in writing the briefs."
More broadly, Nickles said he is already working toward "building a professional, well-equipped private law firm that will be working for the public" when he takes over as acting attorney general.
Goldstein, who writes occasionally for Legal Times, declined comment, and Dellinger could not be reached. Both already have Supreme Court arguments scheduled for this month and next.