JIM MCKAY Covington & Burling
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FACTS. That's what 91-year-old Covington
& Burling senior counsel Jim McKay emphasizes when he talks
about his long career as a trial lawyer. And he remembers
Take, for instance, the criminal antitrust case McKay tried
back in 1952 for E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, which
was indicted with about a dozen other defendants for
allegedly fixing the price of automobile spray paints. As
McKay recalls it, one minor fact in the case turned out to
be key. During depositions, a witness had remarked that the
head of DuPont's paint division, a defendant in the case,
had been complaining about his teeth. So McKay and his
colleagues obtained his dental records. They showed that at
the very moment the government claimed the defendant was at
a meeting in Cleveland fixing prices, the defendant was
actually having a wisdom tooth extracted. The jury returned
a verdict in DuPont 's favor.
DuPont was only one of McKay's many big clients, which
included the old Pennsylvania Railroad and the National
Football League. In 1975 McKay won a memorable antitrust
verdict for the NFL. Player Joe Kapp had charged that the
player draft system violated antitrust law. By the time
McKay got the case, the judge had already found the
defendants liable. But at trial McKay and his cocounsel
convinced the jury that Kapp had suffered no damages.
In 1987 McKay was tapped as independent counsel
investigating Lyn Nofziger, a former aide in the Reagan
White House who was accused of violating
conflict-of-interest laws by lobbying on behalf of Wedtech,
a defense contractor, within a year of leaving office. The
case expanded to include Attorney General Edwin Meese. McKay
recommended Nofziger's indictment, but with Meese, the
situation was less clear-cut. "A lot of people are still
upset that I issued an 800-page report that in effect said
that the jury would have found [Meese] guilty," McKay says
now. "But we didn't feel Mr. Meese had any venal intent. And
we had gotten our message across." Meese resigned shortly
after the report was released.
Colleagues say that McKay was an obvious choice for
independent counsel because of his reputation for
nonpartisanship. "I actually have no idea what his politics
are," says Covington's Mitchell Dolin, who has known McKay,
for 25 years.
Since the mid-nineties, McKay has devoted himself almost
entirely to pro bono work. He's taken at least 24 pro bono
cases for disabled veterans and worked for the repeal of a
federal law preventing veterans from hiring a lawyer to help
them file initial disability claims ["Casualties of War,"
July]. In April the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans
Claims presented McKay with a distinguished service award.
But when colleagues talk about McKay, the first thing they
mention is not his achievements. Robert Weiner, associate
independent counsel under McKay, now at Arnold & Porter, is
typical: "Jim McKay is one of the most decent and nicest
people I've met in my career."
For a successful trial lawyer in Washington, D.C., that may
be the biggest accomplishment of all. —Daphne Eviatar