Wednesday, July 25, 2007

NFL selects Holder for Vick inquiry

The Washington Post reported that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell tapped former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder to head the inquiry into Michael Vick's activity.

"According to league officials, the review will be conducted by members of the NFL's security staff and D.C. lawyer Eric Holder, a partner with Covington & Burling. Holder formerly was the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. He was appointed deputy attorney general by President Clinton in 1997, and served briefly as the acting attorney general under President Bush. Holder's firm is the NFL's outside counsel. He is the second prominent D.C. lawyer to become involved in the case this week. On Monday, Vick hired William R. 'Billy' Martin to represent him."

Holder is a New York City native and graduate of the Columbia Law School. He joined the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in 1976. In 1988, Holder was nominated by President Reagan to become an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. In these divided political times, I didn't know that Reagan-Clinton appointments were possible!

Holder's profile at the Covington & Burling web site describes him as "a litigation partner who handles, among other matters, complex civil and criminal cases, domestic and international advisory matters and internal corporate investigations."

Covington & Burling is one of the most prestigious of Washington, DC, law firms. Their partners are regularly tapped for federal appointments and high profile cases. Covington's Chuck Ruff represented President Clinton during the impeachment process. Covington is also the legal counsel to the NFL, the NBA and the NHL. Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was a partner at the firm.

There is a racial undertone to the Vick case, with some of Vick's supporters and bashers saying dog fighting is part of an "urban culture," with "urban" a code word for African-American. I can assure you that dog fighting is not part of the Black culture. It does seem to be the hallmark of low-life culture. But, I digress.

The NFL's is inquiring whether there is "indisputable evidence" that Vick's activities violated the league's personal conduct policy. Selecting Holder to lead the investigation will offset some of the suspicion that the league is just trying to take down a successful Black man. With Holder's reputation, I expect an accurate, thorough investigation without slipping into a "get Ookie outa here" tone -- even if that's what the league wants to do now. I'm not sure the NFL thought of Holder that way; or, perhaps they did.

Photo: Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. in 1999 (Ray Lustig — The Washington Post)

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