Acting Attorney General for the District of Columbia Irvin Nathan is one step closer to officially getting the job.
Nathan (pictured right) testified today about his experience, his plans for the office and his accomplishments since taking office in January during his confirmation hearing before the City Council’s Committee on the Judiciary. Nathan is the former general counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives; he also spent several decades at Washington’s Arnold & Porter and as an official with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray nominated Nathan for the job in December to replace former Attorney General Peter Nickles. Gray and Nathan were not personally acquainted before the nomination, Nathan noted in his testimony today; Hogan Lovells partner Robert Bennett, who was recently hired to represent the mayor in an ongoing investigation into allegations of campaign misconduct, recommended that Gray consider Nathan at the time.
Nathan made his pitch for the job today to Councilman Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), the judiciary committee chairman. The council has until early May to vote on Nathan's nomination; the nomination is automatically approved if the council does not take any action by then. Nathan testified before Mendelson on March 14 as part of the judiciary committee’s annual performance oversight hearings; that testimony can be found here.
Speaking at length about his experience in public and private practice, Nathan stressed his ability to build consensus, even in highly contentious cases. He spoke about several settlements his office has negotiated since he took office in January, including one announced yesterday between the city and a group of disabled residents suing for access to stores that sell D.C. lottery tickets.
Mendelson pressed Nathan to explain how he would deal with suits brought against the city by current city employees with grievances or former employees upset about being fired. Quoting earlier testimony from Kris Baumann, chairman of the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police – who accused the attorney general’s office of pursuing unnecessary appeals in the past as a strategy for quashing suits – Mendelson asked Nathan whether he thought the office had a problem with “over-litigating.”
Nathan said he is opposed to “endless appeals,” but said that, in some cases, lower-level city agencies that settle disputes are wrong and that appeals in those cases can be appropriate.
“If there is an employee that doesn’t belong on the payroll, we need to protect the District,” he said.
A full recording of Nathan’s testimony will be available here.
Updated at 6:02 p.m. with corrected information on how the council can act on the nomination.