Best Public Policy

The superlawyer
City officials trying to get to the bottom of municipal malfeasance have a few options. Legislators can hold hearings, too often charged with poisonous politics; mayoral officials can order a internal inquiry, a fox-and-henhouse move if ever there was one. Or they can find a “superlawyer” with enough clout and resources to conduct a pro bono independent investigation. That option has served the city well. The trend started in late 2007, when the D.C. Council tapped WilmerHale’s Bill McLucas to do a deep dive on how Harriette Walters & Co. stole $50 million from the Office of Tax and Revenue. Last year, Attorney General Peter Nickles called on retired federal judge Stanley Sporkin to investigate possible discovery abuses in the Pershing Park mass-arrests case. And Council Chair Vincent Gray tapped Hogan & Hartson’s Robert S. Bennett to untangle Councilmember Marion Barry’s contracts with gal pals and his involvement in funding and operating a handful of fishy nonprofits. Those lawmen produced reports that were anything but whitewashes. Soon after his report was released, Sporkin said, “I try to be as surgical as possible. Just [follow] the facts where they are and at the end of it just look at them. Does it make sense?” That’s the kind of oversight residents deserve.