Peter Nickles

Peter J. Nickles

Senior Counsel
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Covington & Burling LLP
One CityCenter
850 Tenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001-4956
Tel: +1 202 662 5394



  • Harvard Law School, LL.B., 1963
  • Princeton University, A.B., 1960

Bar Admissions

  • District of Columbia


  • German
  • Greek
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Russian

Peter Nickles is a long-time partner, now senior counsel of the firm, whose practice emphasizes major class actions involving securities fraud and toxic torts; jury and non-jury trials, as well as defensive takeover litigation and other high-profile litigation; international arbitrations; antitrust and trade law and federal regulatory practice.  Mr. Nickles rejoins Covington & Burling LLP after serving District of Columbia Mayor Adrian M. Fenty during his four-year Administration, first as General Counsel to the Mayor, then as Attorney General for the District of Columbia.

During his tenure as Attorney General, Mr. Nickles worked tirelessly to improve the lives of its citizens.  He played a major role in shoring up the financially troubled United Medical Center, the city's only hospital east of the Anacostia River.  He also pressed public-interest lawsuits against city slumlords and tried to free the city from court oversight in longstanding cases involving how the District handles issues such as juvenile justice, mental health patients and special education.

Mr. Nickles' legal career began at Covington, where, over four and one-half decades, he represented numerous Fortune 500 companies against insurance carriers in litigating complex insurance coverage disputes.

Representative Matters

  • On behalf of Kerr-McGee Corporation, he sued and later settled with more than 20 insurance carriers who had provided insurance coverage to the company for approximately 20 years.
  • On behalf of Texas Eastern, he sued approximately 20 insurance carriers who had provided insurance coverage to the Company for about 30 years.
  • Represented United Nuclear Corporation as it faced litigation and federal/state investigations of its uranium tailings dam breach in New Mexico.
  • Advised a major US mining company in connection with litigation in the US and abroad arising from its significant copper operations in Peru.
  • Represented Kerr-McGee in responding to litigation, the media and federal/state investigations arising from an explosion of a UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) cylinder in Oklahoma.
  • Represented Kerr-McGee in connection with its decades-long attempt to find an authorized location for the radioactive thorium waste at its West Chicago facility, as well as in a myriad of lawsuits resulting from the presence of the radioactive waste.

Honors and Rankings

  • District of Columbia Bar Association's Pro Bono Service Award (1998)
  • Washingtonian, Named one of Washington’s 50 best lawyers (September 2002)
  • Euromoney Publications, PLC, Named one of the world’s leading litigation lawyers (1997)
  • District of Columbia Bar, Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award (1998)
  • The Best Lawyers in America (1999-2005)
  • Metropolitan Police Department, District of Columbia--Chief of Police Medal of Merit (2009)
  • Lifetime Appreciation Award for Services to the Homeless presented by Community for Creative Nonviolence (CCNV) (2010)

Pro Bono

  • Jerry M., class action litigation that began in March of 1985 with the filing of a complaint challenging the District’s failure to provide the children housed at its Oak Hill facility with adequate care and rehabilitation services and seeking relief on behalf of a class of children being detained at Oak Hill.
  • Dixon v. Barry, a class-action lawsuit that has spanned more than three decades and comprised thousands of homeless and mentally-ill residents of the District of Columbia, Mr. Nickles was successful in persuading the Court to appoint a Receiver for the failing District of Columbia's mental health system. Over the years he has fought hard for the rights and needs of class members and has sought social, institutional and political reform on every front, and he continues to do so.
  • He has been a strong and effective advocate for prisoners' civil rights in precedent-setting litigation: In John Doe v. District of Columbia , he represented all of the prisoners confined to the District of Columbia's Maximum Security Facility. Under his leadership, the litigation was instrumental in reducing violence, alleviating overcrowding, and improving mental health services.
  • In Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia , he represented a class of prisoners confined to the District's Lorton Prison Central Facility. The litigation produced important changes in the operation of the prison, improved mental and medical health services, a reduction in overcrowding, a reduction in violence, and improved educational and vocational programming.
  • In Inmates of the Modular Facility v. District of Columbia, he skillfully negotiated an effective Consent Decree designed to cure constitutional deficiencies in health care, mental health care, sanitation, fire safety, violence protection, and overcrowding.
  • In Women Prisoners v. District of Columbia , class-action litigation brought on behalf of Lorton women prisoners, he won an injunction requiring the District of Columbia to provide adequate prenatal care and to take steps to prevent sexual abuse and harassment.

Memberships and Affiliations

  • The Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and co-founder of Mississippi office (1964)
  • Counsel to the Jackson State Task Force and the Kent State Task Force, reporting to the President’s Scranton Commission on Campus Unrest (1968-70)
  • Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP), Washington, DC, Chairman (1970-1975)
  • Howard Law School, Adjunct Professor (1980-1992)

Publications and Speeches

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