New D.C. Attorney General Served Full Plate

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Newly confirmed D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan already has a substantial slate, though his tenure has barely begun.

In a city in which the leadership is plagued by allegations of campaign finance irregularities, pay-for-play and improper hiring practices, Nathan’s first task may be just shoring up the agency’s reputation, and he has promised an office of integrity, professionalism, independence and competence.

Nathan, who may be the last appointed attorney general if he serves his full term, will need those things as his office participates in the investigation of Mayor Vincent Gray’s administration and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown.

He is also overseeing major open cases, including a lawsuit involving online travel companies, in which the city is suing for millions of dollars in back taxes to the District treasury. Investigations of companies, corporations and individuals that have allegedly misused District money for private benefits will also fall directly under Nathan.

So far, Nathan has handled the city’s embarrassing case involving inaccurate breathalyzer testing, which left some area residents convicted of drunk driving although they didn’t have a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level. The city will reinstate breathalyzers for suspected drunk drivers in a couple of months, said Gwendolyn Crump, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Department.

“We are working closely with other city partners to ensure the program is scientifically sound,” she said by e-mail.

For smaller cases, the Office of the Attorney General already has numerous attorneys working in the critical litigation division, but Nathan says he wants to expand the pro bono program for more efficiency in the agency.

“I am committed to expanding this prop bono program and further integrating the private bar into the OAG’s pro bono program,” he said in an e-mail. “I have met personally with many of the District’s law firm leaders, and this program is continuing to be developed.”

He is against micromanagement, Nathan said. Instead, he plays a “highly engaged managerial role” to make sure OAG runs efficiently. “I do this through regular face-to-face staff meetings, ad hoc meetings with small groups of lawyers and staff involved in particular cases or projects and through regular e-mail communications with staff,” he said.

His vision of a “first class legal office” involves reducing the office’s caseload, and aggressively moving forward with cases.

“I hope that it will be said of this time that [OAG] helped to resolve and conclude the various judicial consent decrees that had been imposed for many years on several of our executive agencies,” he added.

Nathan said he wants the office to be known for how it “improved the impartial administration of justice for all of our citizens and provided top quality, impartial, nonpolitical advice and vigorous advocacy for its clients, while consistently comporting with the highest standards of ethics.”

During the city’s 2010 election, residents voted to elect the next attorney general in 2014, which may make Nathan the last appointed attorney general.