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Fenty Nominates Nickles as Attorney General

UPDATED: 11:30 a.m.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced his nomination of Peter J. Nickles to the attorney general post this morning. The Washington Post reported earlier this week of the mayor's plans.

They were joined on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building by council members Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), David A. Catania (I-At Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who all said they were supporting the nomination. Bowser and Graham praised his fight against the city's slumlords while Catania said he was impressed with Nickles's negotiations to save Greater Southeast Community Hospital, now known as United Medical Center.

The presence of the four council members was a significant showing for Nickles, who has often found himself in the mix when the Fenty administration and the council are at odds.

"I've known Peter Nickles for 20, 25 years," Barry said. "I've locked horns with him, too."

"Many times," Nickles chimed in.

Nickles, a close adviser and family friend to Fenty who first served as the mayor's general counsel, took over as interim attorney general after Linda Singer resigned the post in December. Singer reportedly left the position because she said Nickles, as general counsel, inserted himself too much in the affairs of her office.

The announcement comes just one day after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the city's handgun ban, sending the District scrambling to balance dual goals: to respect the court's ruling while trying to preserve its commitment to strong gun control laws.

The nomination of Nickles, 69, will no doubt bring controversy, though the mayor has been heavily lobbying council members, many of whom say they will support Fenty's nominee.

Nickles is known for what his supporters call a no-nonsense, hard-charging style. His critics have a different take, describing him as arrogant and abrasive.

Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, has been a vocal critic and issued a statement saying that he would hold a public hearing on the nomination. "I expect a robust discussion regarding many of the questions surrounding this nominee, including the well-known residency requirement," he said. "It is mystifying, evn though the Mayor clearly intended to make this choice months ago, the nominee still resides outside the District and has made no known effort to change that fact."

Nickles, who lives in Virginia, said that he is looking for a District residence, maybe even a condo. District law gives him 180 days after a nomination to move into the the city's borders. "I'll invite you over to my house for drink," he told reporter Tom Sherwood, who questioned when he would actually move.

Arriving on the heels of the high court's ruling, the nomination will also remind some that it was Nickles who, upon taking office after Singer's resignation, shook up the gun case legal team just weeks before it was to go before the high court. Yesterday's ruling was the first in 70 years and legal observers say it will have reverberations around the country.

Nickles has faced recent criticism about his firings of eight lawyers in the attorney general's office for budget cuts and poor performance, but a judge forced him to reverse the decisions. The interim attorney general has also been deeply involved in issues such as the decision to put up police checkpoints in a D.C. neighborhood recently faced with a spate of deadly gun violence. And he has won high praise for leading the crackdown against slumlords in the District.

By Marcia Davis  |  June 27, 2008; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  Mayor Fenty  
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