Weil’s watergate veteran to run for NY district attorney

Weil Gotshal & Manges litigation partner Richard Davis, one of the firm’s highest-profile lawyers, confirmed exclusively last week to The Lawyer (11 February) that he is planning to run for the post of New York County district attorney.

Davis said it was his “passion for public service” that had convinced him it was appropriate to run.

“This is a very exciting job with an extraordinary tradition,” Davis said. “Public service is in my DNA.”

For once this is probably no overstatement. Davis’s CV reads like a potted version of recent US history. He was a member of the Watergate special prosecution force where, as an assistant special prosecutor, he served as chief trial counsel in the trials of President Nixon’s appointment secretary Dwight Chapin and Edward Reinecke, the Republican lieutenant governor of California.

Later, as an assistant secretary of the US Treasury, he was responsible for supervising numerous government departments, including the US Secret Service, the US Customs Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

During the Carter years Davis oversaw the freeze on Iranian assets during the hostage crisis and participated in the development of the US-Iran hostage release agreements of January 1981.

“I wasn’t one of the negotiators but I did go without sleep in the week before their release,” Davis recalls.

Jumping forward a president or two, Davis testified as an expert on standards of prosecution at the request of President Clinton’s counsel before the House Judiciary Committee, considering the impeachment of the then president.

By this time Davis had joined Weil as a commercial litigation partner. A successful bid to become Manhattan’s district attorney would see him quit the firm for a post that has one of the widest remits in the legal landscape.

The Manhattan district attorney oversees everything from top-level white-collar fraud to fare jumpers. As one leading partner at another firm puts it: “It’s not a job for everyone.”

But before Davis has to concern himself with clearing the subway of fare dodgers, he has a minor obstacle to overcome in the shape of the incumbent, Bob Morgenthau.

Morgenthau, who will be 89 in July, has served as Manhattan district attorney for an incredible 33 years. His current term expires next year and he has so far shown no desire to step down. Indeed, he is believed to have already come up with a slogan for the 2009 election: ’90 in ’09.’

In true US election style, there is still plenty of time for that to change – the primaries are not until September 2009.

And to complete the US history theme, if Morgenthau does decide to stand down, Davis’s opponents are likely to include another well-known name from the country’s recent political past. Indications are that Morgenthau’s preferred successor is Cyrus Vance Jnr – none other than the son of former President Carter’s secretary of state.