Irvin Nathan, who led the U.S. House of Representatives' fight to compel testimony from then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers, is planning to resign his job as House general counsel.
Nathan said in a brief phone interview today that he plans to pursue other opportunities. A former partner at Arnold & Porter who has taught at Georgetown University Law Center, he said he is considering several possibilities including in the private sector and academia.
The most high-profile duty of the House general counsel is to represent congressmen, their staff and the House itself in many kinds of litigation. It was in that role that Nathan filed suit against Miers and Joshua Bolten, who was President George W. Bush’s chief of staff, to try to enforce subpoenas issued by the House Judiciary Committee. Committee Democrats were investigating the administration’s firing of nine U.S. attorneys.
Bush administration lawyers asked that the suit be thrown out, and House Republicans opposed the suit. But U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled in favor of enforcing the subpoenas — the first time a U.S. judge had ever ordered the executive branch to turn over information to Congress. The sides later negotiated an agreement while an appeal was pending.
The office has also been involved in litigation with the U.S. Department of Justice, battling over the reach of the U.S. Constitution’s speech or debate clause. That clause protects the communication and documents of members of Congress and their staff members.
Nathan, who left Arnold & Porter for the House in 2007, said he has sent a letter of resignation to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). He referred further questions to Pelosi’s office, where a spokesman had no immediate comment.
The move comes as Republicans prepare to retake control of the House after four years in the minority. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the incoming speaker, will have the chance to appoint a new general counsel.
Updated at 4:01 p.m. to clarify Nathan's plans.