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NFL's Tagliabue: Peter Nickles Was My Mentor and Teacher

Acting D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles pulled out some heavy hitters to support him at his confirmation hearing before a D.C. Council committee this afternoon: former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, now a member of Nickles' old law firm Covington & Burling; former Army Secretary Togo D. West Jr.; Police Chief Cathy Lanier; Carol Fennelly, Hope House Director (and mom of Fenty Chief of Staff Carrie Brooks); and Shelley Broderick, dean of the University of the District of Columbia law school.

All five had worked with Nickles in a variety of capacities and spoke glowingly of him as a man of intelligence, integrity, strong work ethic and passion for serving the people, especially the poor. Tagliabue even referred to Nickles as his "mentor and teacher."

He recalled joining Covington as a young associate 40 years ago and meeting Nickles, who showed him the ropes. Later, when Tagliabue was named to run the NFL, he called on Covington, and Nickles, to handle a major anti-trust lawsuit filed by the players' union that went all the way to the Supreme Court. In that case, the NFL had attempted to establish a "developmental squad" of players who would be paid $1,000 apiece. The union objected, saying it would limit free trade. Nickles handled the trial, which the NFL lost in federal court.

However, on appeal, the NFL ultimately won the case in the high court, a case another Covington lawyer handled.

Tagliabue was unconditional in his support of Nickles: "His record of success makes him one of the most accomplished lawyers of his generation."

Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) was impressed by Tagliabue's appearance. He produced a football from behind the council's podium, holding it aloft and saying: "When I was an aspiring quarterback, I got this football with your signature on it."

Then Evans asked Tagliabue the pressing question of the day: "Mr. Tagliabue, how are you going to help us get the Redskins back" in D.C.?

Without missing a beat, the former commish responded: "By working with Mr. Nickles."

Not everyone was so impressed with Nickles, however. Several activists are testifying against him, including Tenants Advocacy Coalition (TENAC) Chairman Jim McGrath and Alison Gill, head of the D.C. Trans Coalition, an advocacy group for the city's transgender community.

McGrath said his organization has been turned off by Nickles' brusque, dismissive manner. That group also objected to Mayor Fenty's firing of former D.C. Rent Administrator Grayce Wiggins, who housing activists said was fired because she supported tenants in a dispute against a politically connected developer. The activists have been angered by Nickles's actions in defending the administration's position, including declining to answer questions from the council at a recent hearing on the matter.

"It was stonewalling of Watergate caliber," McGrath said. "It was truly troubling."

Others complained about the police checkpoints that were set up two times in the Trinidad neighborhood, a strategy that Fenty, Lanier and Nickles said was aimed at stemming a spate of homicides, but which activists said violated civil rights.

The council committee is not scheduled to vote on Nickles' nomination today.

By David A Nakamura  |  October 17, 2008; 2:00 PM ET
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Next: Nickles: The Mediator


Has he established residency in the District yet? Hasn't it been long enough?

Posted by: ML | October 17, 2008 5:36 PM | Report abuse

With all that was said in that hearing you spend your time writing about former NFL Commissioner. You failed to comment on any of the critical issues raised by council members and witnesses.

Posted by: Roy | October 17, 2008 11:42 PM | Report abuse

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