Attorney General for the District of Columbia

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Attorney General of the District of Columbia
DC Attorney General Seal.png
Seal of the Office of the Attorney General
DC Attorney General Karl Racine official photo.jpg
Incumbent
Karl Racine

since 2 January 2015
Term length Four years, renewable
Formation 1973
Website Office of the Attorney General

The Attorney General for the District of Columbia is the chief legal officer of the District of Columbia. Previously appointed by the Mayor, D.C. voters approved a charter amendment in 2010 which made the office an elected position beginning in 2015.

Charter amendment[edit]

In the November 2, 2010 general election, voters approved Charter Amendment IV that made the office of Attorney General an elected position.

Charter Amendment IV[1][2]
Choice Votes  %
Referendum passed Yes 90,316 75.78
No 28,868 24.22
Total votes 119,184 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 453,014 26.30

Election delays[edit]

In July 2012,[3] the DC council voted to postpone the election of attorney general to 2018, citing a dispute over how much power the elected attorney general would have. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson called the vote "an embarrassment." [3]

In September 2013, Paul Zukerberg filed suit against the DC Council and the city elections claiming any delay would violate the District charter — which was amended through the 2010 ballot question to provide for the election of the city’s top lawyer.[3] Attorney General Irv Nathan initially argued that Zukerberg was not suffering any “meaningful hardship” from pushing back the election.[4]

On February 7, 2014, a District of Columbia Superior Court judge ruled that ballots for the April 1 primary could be printed without the Attorney General race.[5] Zukerberg appealed the ruling, declaring himself a candidate and arguing that he would suffer "irreparable harm" if the election were postponed.[6][7]

On June 4, 2014, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's decision. The Court held "that the Superior Court's interpretation was incorrect as a matter of law" and reversed. The Court ruled that the original language in the Elected Attorney General Act is ambiguous in stating the election "shall be after January 1, 2014," and that the attorney general referendum ratified by a majority of D.C. voters in 2010 made it seem as though the election would take place in 2014.[8] On June 13, Zukerberg collected nominating petitions.[9]

2014 election[edit]

Joining Zukerberg as candidates for the position were insurance litigator and activist Lorie Masters, federal lawyer Edward "Smitty" Smith, white-collar attorney Karl Racine, and legislative policy analyst Lateefah Williams.[4][10][11][12] Racine secured a plurality victory, winning 36% of the votes cast, and was sworn in as the first elected Attorney General in January 2015.[13][14][15]

Previous Attorneys General for the District of Columbia[edit]

Before 1899, the position was "Attorney for the District of Columbia". By 1905, it had become "Corporation Counsel". In 2004, the office's name was changed from "Corporation Counsel" to "Attorney General" by Mayor's Order 2004-92, May 26, making Spagnoletti the only person ever to hold both titles.

After Home Rule[edit]

No. Name Took Office Left Office Mayor(s)
14 Nathan, Irvin B.Irvin B. Nathan January 2011 November 17, 2014 Vincent C. Gray
13 Nickles, PeterPeter Nickles[16] January 2008[17] 2011 Adrian Fenty
12 Singer, LindaLinda Singer January 2, 2007 January 5, 2008
11 Spagnoletti, RobertRobert Spagnoletti 2003 2006 Anthony A. Williams
Interim Teal, Arabella W.Arabella W. Teal[18] 2002 2003
10 Rigsby, RobertRobert Rigsby 1999 2002
9 Ferren, John M.John M. Ferren[19] September 24, 1997[20] April 19, 1999 Marion Barry; Anthony A. Williams
8 Ruff, Charles F.C.Charles F.C. Ruff 1995 February 1997 Sharon Pratt Kelly; Marion Barry
7 Ruiz, VanessaVanessa Ruiz 1994 October 1994 Sharon Pratt Kelly
6 Payton, JohnJohn Payton 1991 1994
5 Cooke, Jr., Frederick D.Frederick D. Cooke, Jr.[21] 1987 1990 Marion Barry
4 Smith Reid, InezInez Smith Reid 1983 1986
3 Rogers, Judith W.Judith W. Rogers[22] 1979 1983 Walter Washington; Marion Barry
2 Risher, John R.John R. Risher[23] 1976 April 1978 Walter Washington
1 Murphy, C. FrancisC. Francis Murphy[24] 1971 1975

Before Home Rule[edit]

Name Took Office Left Office President(s) of the Board
Murphy, C. FrancisC. Francis Murphy 1970 1976 Mayor-Commissioner Walter Washington
Duncan, Charles T.Charles T. Duncan[25][26] 1966 1970 Walter Nathan Tobriner
Gray, Chester H.Chester H. Gray 1956 1965 Robert E. McLaughlin, Walter Nathan Tobriner
Prettyman, E. BarrettE. Barrett Prettyman 1934 1936 Melvin Colvin Hazen
Bride, William W.William W. Bride 1927 1934 Proctor L. Dougherty; Luther Halsey Reichelderfer; Melvin Colvin Hazen
Syme, Conrad H.Conrad H. Syme[27] 1913 1920 Oliver Peck Newman; Louis Brownlow
Thomas, Edward H.Edward H. Thomas[28] 1905 1913 Henry Brown Floyd MacFarland; Cuno Hugo Rudolph
Duvall, Andrew B.Andrew B. Duvall[29][30] 1899 September 12, 1905 John Brewer Wright; Henry Brown Floyd MacFarland
Thomas, Sidney J.Sidney J. Thomas 1893 1899 John Wesley Ross; John Brewer Wright
Hazelton, George C.George C. Hazelton 1889 1893 John Watkinson Douglass

References[edit]

  1. ^ "General Election 2010". District of Columbia Board of Elections. 
  2. ^ "The Elected Attorney General Charter Amendment" (PDF). District of Columbia Board of Elections. August 13, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c "D.C. Council delays first election of attorney general". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-04-06. 
  4. ^ a b "Attorney Paul Zukerberg Suing DC Council Over Timing of Attorney General Election". Washingtonian.com. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  5. ^ "D.C. Judge: AG Race Won't Be on April 1 Ballot". CBS. Retrieved 2014-04-06. 
  6. ^ "Paul Zukerberg Appeals Attorney General Election Decision". dcist.com. Archived from the original on 2015-02-16. Retrieved 2014-02-06. 
  7. ^ Matt Cohen (February 7, 2014). "There Will Not Be An Attorney General Election This April". DCist. Archived from the original on March 10, 2014. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  8. ^ Matt Cohen (June 4, 2014). "Court Rules City Must Hold Attorney General Election This Year (UPDATE)". DCist. Archived from the original on October 16, 2014. Retrieved June 12, 2014. 
  9. ^ Matt Cohen and Sarah Anne Hughes (June 13, 2014). "Board Of Elections Hands Over Ballot Petitions For An Elected Attorney General". DCist. Archived from the original on November 6, 2017. Retrieved June 14, 2014. 
  10. ^ Mike DeBonis (2014-07-16). "Lorie Masters seeks D.C. attorney general post in November election". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-10-12. 
  11. ^ Mike DeBonis (2014-07-07). "Edward 'Smitty' Smith, former federal lawyer, joins D.C. attorney general race". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-07-22. 
  12. ^ Jennifer van der Kleut (2014-07-16). "D.C. attorney general race: One candidate drops out, four new ones jump in". ABC7 WJLA. Retrieved 2014-07-22. 
  13. ^ https://www.dcboee.org/election_info/election_results/2014/November-4-General-Election
  14. ^ "D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine takes sides in Obama immigration fight". Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-01-21. 
  15. ^ "Karl Racine wins first-ever race for D.C. attorney general". Washington Post. 4 November 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  16. ^ "Former D.C Attorney General Peter Nickles returns to law firm". Washington Business Journal. American City Business Journals. January 6, 2011. Retrieved December 7, 2017. 
  17. ^ David Nakamura (October 18, 2008). "D.C. Drafts Suit Against Bank for Tax-Scam Cash". The Washington Post: 2. Retrieved April 26, 2016.  (Nickles began his tenure as Acting Attorney General.)
  18. ^ Press Release from Teal's time as Corporation Counsel
  19. ^ Biography at DC Court of Appeals
  20. ^ DC Bar interview
  21. ^ Biography at Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris & Cooke, L.L.P.
  22. ^ Official Biography at D.C. Circuit
  23. ^ Richard Pearson (1999-02-22). "JOHN RISHER, FORMER D.C. CORPORATION COUNSEL, DIES". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-01-15. 
  24. ^ "C. Francis Murphy Dies". The Washington Post. 1993-07-30. Retrieved 2017-07-13. 
  25. ^ Adam Bernstein (2004-05-07). "D.C. Lawyer, Educator Charles Duncan Dies". Retrieved July 13, 2017. 
  26. ^ "Legends in the Law: Charles T. Duncan". Bar Report. June–July 1996. Retrieved July 13, 2017. 
  27. ^ J. R. Cole (1917). "History of Greenbrier County": 166–171. Retrieved March 24, 2017. 
  28. ^ District of Columbia. Board of Commissioners (1905). "Annual Report of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia". 4: 34. Retrieved March 24, 2017. 
  29. ^ Richard A. Ford, ed. (1905). "The Daily Washington Law Reporter". 33: 577. Retrieved March 24, 2017. 
  30. ^ "Eminent and Representative Men of Virginia and the District of Columbia in the Nineteenth Century: With a Concise Historical Sketch of Virginia". Brant & Fuller. 1893: 103. Retrieved March 24, 2017. 

External links[edit]