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How Many Lawyers Does It Take...

To get fired--in the interest of a balanced budget and "first-rate" staff.

The Office of the Attorney General began informing assistant attorneys yesterday that they will be terminated for poor performance as the agency seeks to become "first-rate" and save $3 million in the fiscal 2009 budget, said interim Attorney General Peter J. Nickles.

So far, 10 assistant attorneys and one staff member are on the list, he said. "It's not a layoff. It's not a buyout. Folks are being let go," Nickles said.

In December, Nickles, Fenty's general counsel, replaced Linda Singer, who insiders say quit out of frustration that Nickles interfered in decision-making.

Nickles, known for his take-no-prisoners style, said he began a performance review of the office. "Deputies and frontline supervisers" looked at "who the stars are and who is not up to that star capacity," Nickles said.

Nickles said he had not planned to begin clearing the office of underperforming employees for another three months but the recent budget crunch sped up the process. There are about 300 lawyers in the office, Nickles said.

The employees have the right to challenge the supervisors' recommendations that they be fired with Nickles, who said he would decide whether they should ultimately be terminated.

But Nickles said he is prepared to fire people and there will be more. "The more would not be to come within the restraints of the budget," he said.

It will be because they don't shine bright.

By Nikita R Stewart  |  May 22, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  City Life  
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I think this is a good idea. This office has a certain reputation with the courts that it may want to fix -- quickly. I like the sense of urgency here.

Posted by: DC | May 22, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

This is talking out of both sides of your mouth. They're being fired because of poor performance to the end of tightening the budget. Double talk at its prime. Either it's a layoff to tighten the budget or these are let-gos to tighten operations. But its not both. Or shall we say they're being let go with the unexpectedly delicious benefit of helping the budget. Crappola.

Posted by: dcp | May 22, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Great way to eliminate the crippling cost of severance packages.

Posted by: dcp | May 22, 2008 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like Nichol's trying to get around laying off people b/c of the budget and this is easier than going through the proper established procedures for a layoff. I hope they fight this b/c it just reeks of being inappropriate.

Posted by: dcsc | May 22, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Interim Attorney General Peter J. Nickles should leave. He is not a DC resident, does not pay taxes here, he is a little dictator and we can do much better than him.

Posted by: Jay Raddy | May 22, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I wonder who the employee's will go to, to challenge their termination. I bet it won't be Peter Nickles. This reeks of a lawsuit and I hope the attorneys get together and file some type of lawsuit or injunction. Does Mr. Nickles give morale classes we don't know about? How about after he fires these people he goes to their house and kick their cat or dog.

Posted by: Morale Booster | May 22, 2008 5:13 PM | Report abuse

I hate to say it, but this will end up costing the DC taxpayers a lot more than it will save. Look what happened to the police department last week. If you don't fire government workers right, you end up getting sued, losing, and having to pay them to not work. Dumb.

Posted by: JD | May 22, 2008 6:18 PM | Report abuse

It's a simple proposition that if there's a legal procedure to dismiss a government employee from his position then that procedure should be followed. Reduction in Force (RIF), or lay-offs, take place according to clear procedures. Even classic firings (for alleged poor performance) follow certain rules. That the rules are not being followed - and they're not but that's only insider knowledge because no one would know that from reading the tiny article above - is enough to give one pause. The next step is to natually question the motivations of the putative head of the Agency - unclear yet whether he seeks to become the permanent head though one can judge by actions - in seeking to turn the Agency into one that is described as "first rate" and is populated by employees who have "star capacity." As always, life tends to be a little more complicated than (A) journalists or (B)Agency managers seem to understand. The Office of the Attorney General already has a "first rate" reputation, at least among several judges who have daily real life experiences with the many hard working lawyers who forgo riches to represent the city and hence the people of the District, in hundreds of legal matters. To the extent that "star capacity" reflects some kind of superhuman quality - I don't know, like basketball players or movie actors - then these lawyers are not stars. But they do have a light that shines softly and quietly as they do they jobs effectively and without fanfare. But all of this reality is not sexy enough for journalists or Agency heads looking to make newspaper headlines with the next big 10-million-dollar case.

Posted by: DCESq | May 22, 2008 7:55 PM | Report abuse

He's an a**hole, plain and simple.

Posted by: OAG Attorney | May 23, 2008 12:00 AM | Report abuse

Where to begin... If they do indeed dismiss these government employees, will the folks left standing suddenly get a pay boost for adding to their already heavy work load? Will they receive over time for their efforts or are they bound to the "Salaried Employee" status where you work 60 hours and get paid for 40? We're headed into the summer in the District of Columbia. Schools let out, the nation is headed into a recession, and crime will go up. I just hope there is enough coverage to handle the upcoming work load both in the courts and on the streets.

Posted by: Liberal with Limits | May 26, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

This reeks as an EEO lawsuit in the making. It has the makings of a classic age discrimination case because when he stated he was letting them go, Mr. Nickels said they were making a "first-rate law firm" with "strong, young, able stars." How thick can you be to admit in the paper that you are not reducing your workforce, but replacing them with younger people. I feel sorry for the new hires and the people of the District because they are the ones who will ultimately pay (in losing a new job when the fired lawyer returns and millions of dollars in settlement fees).

Posted by: SRBJM | June 5, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

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