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DC AG Irv Nathan Looks Ahead

Washington DC Legal DC

As former DC Attorney General Irv Nathan prepares to rejoin Arnold & Porter on Jan. 1, we caught up with him about his plans and his suggestions for the office he leaves behind.

When Irv was appointed DC AG by Mayor Vince Gray in 2011, he "really believed that was going to be my last job in the law." But after leaving office on Nov. 17 at age 71, he tells us he has the energy, and certainly the experience, to be helpful in private practice. He's interested in areas such as internal investigations, white collar criminal defense and government relations, having served in the DC government, on the Hill (as GC to the House of Representatives '07-11), and in two stints at DOJ. Between each turn in public service, Irv has returned to Arnold & Porter, the firm he joined after his Fourth Circuit clerkship following Columbia Law, and where he's intermittently spent more than 30 years.

We snapped Irv in A&P's 555 12th St office with a gift he'd just received: a custom bobblehead of himself, with "Attorney General" written around the base. He says "the voters made a very good choice in Karl Racine," the District's first elected AG, but there are changes that should be made to the Office of the Attorney General itself. First, the Council should restore subpoena power during the investigative stage of suits, particularly in criminal cases. Second, Congress should reconsider the issue of the OAG's criminal jurisdiction because "it is anti-democratic to have local crimes being prosecuted by outsiders who are not responsive to the electorate." It could be concurrent jurisdiction with the US Attorney, he adds. Third, it would be helpful for the AG's office to be able to hire outside counsel to represent it in major cases, on a contingency fee.

As DC AG, Irv was especially proud of matters that saved taxpayers money, such as the suit against travel companies such as Expedia and Travelocity, which will net the city $60M to 90M in back taxes if won on appeal. There's also the suit against the Labor Department over its decision that CityCenterDC was a public work, for which the District should pay the difference between contractor wages and prevailing union wage (it would have cost $20M; the rationale applied to other projects would have billed the city more than $500M). The OAG won in federal district court, and Justice recently filed an appeal. Other cases targeted people enriching themselves at the public's expense--the civil suit against Harry Thomas Jr.--the first sitting councilman to be sued by the city, for stealing $400K intended for Little League baseball operations--and injunctions against charter schools where insiders took millions of taxpayer dollars. Here Irv points out A&P's old building, where he spent his first years with the firm in a first-floor office.

In a photo exhibit by an A&P partner's wife, we get a glimpse of Irv from years ago. A former aspiring journalist, he was the head editor for his high school and college newspapers and interned at the Baltimore Sun before realizing he could have "wider experiences as a lawyer." Now when he's not in the office, Irv tells us he enjoys reading about history (recent favorites include Doris Kearns Goodwin's Bully Pulpit and Noah Feldman's Scorpions), golfing and visiting his two grandchildren in upstate New York. He's had some free time for those since leaving the OAG, though he's also been writing the curriculum for a class on American Constitutional law that he's teaching in the spring at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He'll be living in Jerusalem in March and part of April.