Mary Cheh

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Mary Cheh
Mary Cheh -- 05-14-2010.jpg
Member of the Council of the District of Columbia from Ward 3
Assumed office
January 2, 2007
Preceded byKathy Patterson
Personal details
Born1950 (age 70–71)
Elizabeth, New Jersey, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Neil Lewis
EducationRutgers University, New Brunswick (BA)
Rutgers University, Newark (JD)
Harvard University (LLM)

Mary M. Cheh /ˈ/ (born 1950[1]) is a Democratic politician from Washington, D.C. In November 2006, she won a seat on the Council of the District of Columbia representing Ward 3.

Background and family[edit]

Mary Cheh was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The first in her family to graduate from high school, Cheh is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Douglass College (the women's college of Rutgers University–New Brunswick) and has law degrees from Rutgers School of Law-Newark and Harvard Law School.

Cheh has been a resident of Ward 3 since 1980. She has two daughters, Jane and Nora, who were born and raised in the District, attended Murch Elementary School and Georgetown Day School, and now work as lawyers.[2]

Professional experience[edit]

Upon graduation from law school, Cheh served as a law clerk to the Hon. Richard J. Hughes, chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. Cheh then joined the Washington office of Fried, Frank, Shriver, Harris & Kempleman as an associate. In 1979, Cheh joined the George Washington University Law School, becoming the Elyce Zenoff Research Professor of Law.[3] There, she has received teaching and service awards and serves as a member and former chair of the George Washington Law Public Interest Committee. Cheh is also a guest lecturer in Constitutional Law at the Concord School of Law.[4]

In 1983, Cheh took a sabbatical to do pro bono work in South Africa for the Centre for Applied Legal Studies. Then in 1986, she served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in D.C. She has been a visiting professor at the Concord School of Law, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and the University of California – Hastings.

Cheh has also served as a consultant to the National Institute of Justice and the President's Commission on Organized Crime, and she chaired the subcommittee on criminal justice for the D.C. Circuit Court's Task Force on Gender.[5]

Cheh currently serves as a member of the Rules Committee of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, on the Board of Directors of the National Institute of Military Justice, and as a member of the ACLU Litigation Screening Committee.[citation needed] She has been and continues to be a frequent speaker and media commentator on legal affairs. Cheh works as a professor at the George Washington University Law School[6] and teaches bar review lectures during the summer months.[citation needed]

Career as Councilmember[edit]

Cheh was first elected to the Council of the District of Columbia in 2006, defeating her Republican opponent Theresa Conroy.[7] Cheh replaced Kathy Patterson, who unsuccessfully ran for the seat of Chair of the Council. Cheh was reelected in 2010 by a substantial margin over Republican candidate David Hedgepeth.[8]

As Councilmember, Cheh has chaired several committees, currently serving as Chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment.[9] Previously, she chaired the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs and the Committee on Government Operations.

Cheh served as Chair Pro Tempore from 2010 until 2012, when she became the temporary chair due to the resignation of Chairman Kwame Brown on June 6, 2012.[10] She stepped down from that role when Phil Mendelson was elected chair on June 13, 2012.

During her time on the Council, Cheh has introduced over 850 separate bills and resolutions.[11] She has led five major Council investigations: CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield's failure to comply with its nonprofit mission,[12] 2008 election electronic voting failures[13] Mayoral personnel practices,[14] the improper donation of District fire trucks to the Dominican Republic,[15] and procurement practices at the Office of the Chief Technology Officer.[16]

Cheh has authored several comprehensive reform measures. The Healthy Schools Act of 2010 makes breakfast free to all DCPS and public charter school students; enhances the nutrition of school meals by including more whole grains, a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, less fat, and less sodium; requires schools to serve locally-grown, unprocessed foods in school meals whenever possible; and increases the amount of physical activity and health education required of students.[17] The Omnibus Election Reform Act of 2009 allows for pre-registration for voters who will be 18 at the time of the next election, provides for early voting, and permits individuals to vote on Election Day. And the Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008 created the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility, which administers sustainable energy programs in the District.[citation needed]

Cheh introduced the Taxicab Service Improvement Amendment Act of 2012, which requires taxis in the District to use GPS, credit card readers and modern meters, and uniform dome lights and color schemes. Similarly she co-sponsored introduced emergency measures to keep application-based services like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar street legal.[18]


Cheh currently serves on the following committees:[19]

  • Committee on Transportation and the Environment (Chair)
  • Committee on Judiciary
  • Committee on Health and Human Services

Personal life[edit]

Cheh married New York Times reporter Neil Lewis with whom she has two children.[20][21]


  1. ^ "The George Washington University Law School [profile]". Archived from the original on July 24, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-02.
  2. ^ Alan Suderman (November 18, 2011). "Find shared interests: Mary Cheh". Staying Power: Archive. Washington Post.
  3. ^ GW Law - Faculty Directory
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-07-27. Retrieved 2014-07-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Archived 2012-05-20 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Evans, Cheh make most money outside D.C. Council - Newsroom
  7. ^ Election Profile - D.C. Council, Ward 3 (
  8. ^[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Committee on Transportation and the Environment | Council of the District of Columbia". Archived from the original on 2014-02-23. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
  10. ^ Cheh replaces Evans as D.C. Council chair pro tempore |
  11. ^ DC Council
  12. ^ Cheh Calls for Public Forums on CareFirst - D.C. Wire - The Washington Post
  13. ^ D.C. City Council investigates voting malfunction in primary - The GW Hatchet
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-21. Retrieved 2014-02-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ D.C. Wire - Nickles wants council's firetruck probe terminated
  16. ^ Office of Chief Technology Officer relied too much on under-qualified firms, report says - Washington Business Journal
  17. ^ D.C. Healthy Schools Act | Tackling childhood obesity and hunger in Washington, DC
  18. ^ Cheh, Evans pass legislation to protect Uber from city regulations - Newsroom
  19. ^ "Ward 3 D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh » About Mary".
  20. ^ Debonis, MIke (February 3, 2009). "Cheh on Brooks: "He Should Be Ashamed of Himself!"". Washington City Paper. Washington DC. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  21. ^ Smith-Barrow, Delece. "Staying Power: Archive Advice from couples around the Beltway and beyond on keeping the love alive". Retrieved February 3, 2018.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Council of the District of Columbia
Preceded by
Kathy Patterson
Member of the Council of the District of Columbia
from Ward 3