|Councilmember David Catania
RESOLUTION IN THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Councilmember David Catania introduced the following resolution, which
was referred to the Committee of the Whole
To declare the sense of the Council width respect to the need to amend
the District of Columbia Home Rule Act to establish an Office of the Attorney General of
the District of Columbia
RESOLVED, BY THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, That this
resolution may be cited as the "Sense of the Council Regarding the Establishment of
an Office of the Attorney General of the District of Columbia Resolution of 1998".
Sec. 2. The Council finds that:
(1) Sections 431 through 434 of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act,
approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. ___ , Title II, Appendix C, Sections 431-434; D.C.
Code Section 47-334) established the Judicial Powers of the District, which are
collectively described as Part C under Title IV.
(2) As enacted, the Home Rule Act did not establish a separate and
independently elected prosecutorial entity as part of the governmental structure of the
(3) At present, the District's prosecutorial authority rests with the
U.S. Attorney's Office, which is headed by a Presidential appointee, and the Office of the
Corporation Counsel, which is under the authority of a Mayoral appointee.
(4) The Office of the Corporation Counsel is responsible for
prosecuting the District's minor misdemeanor and juvenile cases, as well as the
representation of the District government. Alternatively, the U.S. Attorney's Office for
the District of Columbia prosecutes the District's felony and serious misdemeanor cases.
As such, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia is the only U.S.
Attorney's Office which is responsible for prosecuting both federal and local laws.
(5) Among other matters, the Office of the Corporation Counsel is not
empowered as a matter of right to investigate and prosecute issues of public integrity
concerning the District government due to certain statutory limitations.
Sec. 3. It is the sense of the Council that amending
the Home Rule Act to create an Office of the Attorney General of the District of Columbia,
which will supersede the Office of the Corporation Counsel, will enhance the balance of
power between the branches of local government, and result in a more responsive and
accountable local prosecutorial authority. The Council's instant Resolution does not
propose any diminishment or loss of prosecutorial authority for the U.S. Attorney's Office
for the District of Columbia. Rather, the Council believes that the Office of the Attorney
General of the District of Columbia should be empowered with certain additional
authorities beyond those currently possessed by the Office of the Corporation Counsel.
Specifically, in the realm of public integrity concerning the District government, the
Council declares that concurrent prosecutorial authority of local laws between the U.S.
Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia and the Office of the Attorney General of
the District of Columbia would serve the public interest.
Sec. 4. The Council requests that the United States
Congress enact the following legislation:
"To amend the District of Columbia Home Rule Act to establish the Office the
Attorney General of the District of Columbia.
"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States
of America in Congress assembled,
"SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
"This Act may be cited as the "Office of the Attorney General of the District
of Columbia Establishment Amendment Act of 1998"."
"SECTION 2. OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
THE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
Title IV of the Home Rule Act is amended by adding a Part CI as well as a new section
435 thereto as follows:
"THE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
"(a) CREATION. There is established an Office of the
Attorney General of the District of Columbia, and the Attorney General of the District of
Columbia shall be the head of this office.
"(b) GENERAL POWERS AND DUTIES Unless otherwise provided by
law, the Office of the Attorney General shall have the general control and supervision of
all actions and legal proceedings in which the District may be a party or may be
interested, and shall have charge and control of all the legal business of all
departments, commissions, agencies, and political subdivisions of the District, or of any
office thereof, which requires the services of counsel in order to protect the interests
of the District. However, nothing in this subsection shall preclude any department,
commission, agency, or political subdivision of the District, or any office from
maintaining or hiring the services of counsel in order to execute the duties and
responsibilities of the respective entity.
"(c) ORGANIZATION. The Attorney General shall
have-authority to create, abolish, and organize any division or instrumentality of the
Office of the Attorney General. Pursuant to Section 404, the Council may create specific
divisions or instrumentalities of the Office of the Attorney General which may not be
abolished by the Attorney General."
SECTION 3. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. Title IV of the
Home Rule Act is amended by adding a Part C 1 as well as a new section 436 thereto as
"THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
"(a) GENERAL POWERS AND DUTIES The Attorney General shall
be the chief law officer of the District and all of its departments, commissions,
agencies, and political subdivisions, and the legal advisor of all District officers,
departments, commissions, agencies, and political subdivisions. Unless otherwise provided
by law, the Attorney General shall:
"(1) At the direction of the Mayor or when deemed necessary by the
Attorney General, prosecute and defend any actions, or conduct any investigations, in
which the District is interested or a party;
"(2) Give, when required, his or her opinion in writing upon all
questions of law submitted to him or her by the Mayor, members of the Council, and heads
of departments, commissions, agencies, and other political subdivisions.
"(3) Defend all actions and proceedings against any District
officer or employee acting in his or her capacity, in any of the courts of the District or
the United States;
"(4) Consult with and advise the Mayor, members of the Council,
and other District officers, and when requested, give written opinions upon all legal
questions relating to the duties of such officers;
"(5) At the direction of the Mayor or when deemed necessary by the
Attorney General, prepare proper drafts of contracts and other instruments relating to
subjects in which the District is interested;
"(6) Enforce the proper application of money appropriated by the
Council to the various funds of the District and prosecute breaches of trust in the
administration of such funds;
"(7) Be responsible for the implementation of District laws
pursuant to subsection (g);
"(8) Institute the necessary actions to recover any fraudulent,
erroneous or illegal fee, bill, account, credit, charge, or claim that the Attorney
General believes has been erroneously or improperly approved, allowed, or paid out of the
"(9) Institute the necessary actions to collect and cause the
payment into the District treasury of all unsatisfied claims, demands, accounts, and
judgments in favor of the District;
"(10) Pay all money received, belonging to the people of the
District of Columbia, immediately upon receipt thereof, into the District's treasury;
"(11) Keep in proper books a record of all cases prosecuted or
defended by the Attorney General, on behalf of the District or its officers, and of all
proceedings had in relation thereto, and deliver the same to his or her successor in
"(12) Keep books in which he or she shall record all the official
opinions given by him or her during his or her term in office, and deliver the same to his
or her successor in office; and
"(13) Have the power, and it shall be his or her duty, to perform
any other duties that are required of the Attorney General by law.
"(b) GENERAL QUALIFICATIONS.
"No person shall hold the Office of the Attorney General unless he
or she (1) is a qualified elector, (2) is domiciled in the District, (3) has resided and
been domiciled in the District for at least one year immediately preceding the day on
which the general or special election for such office is to be held, (4) holds no other
public office for which he or she is compensated in an amount in excess of his or her
actual expenses in connection therewith, except that nothing in this clause shall prohibit
any such person, while Attorney General, from serving as a delegate or alternate delegate
to a convention of a political party nominating candidates for President and Vice
President of the United States, or from holding an appointment in a Reserve component of
an armed force of the United States other than a member serving on active duty under a
call for more than thirty days, and (5) is a member in good standing with the District of
Columbia Bar. For purposes of this subsection, a person is a "member in good standing
with the District of Columbia Bar" if that person is admitted to the practice of law
in the District, is registered with the District of Columbia Bar as an active practitioner
and has not been and is currently not disbarred or suspended from practice. The Attorney
General shall forfeit his or her office upon failure to maintain the qualifications
required by this subsection.
"(c) APPOINTMENTS AND DUTIES.
"(1) The Attorney General may appoint a Deputy Attorney General,
one or more Assistant Attorneys General, and staff attorneys who shall serve at the
pleasure of the Attorney General or until their successors are duly appointed and
qualified. They may perform all the duties required of the Attorney General and such other
duties as the Attorney General may delegate to them.
"(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, whenever the
written approval of the Attorney General is required by statute or court rule and the
Attorney General either is unavailable to act upon the matter or has determined that it
would be legally or ethically improper for him or her to do so, the required approval may
be given by the Deputy Attorney General.
"(3) The Attorney General shall have the power to employ such
assistance, whether lay, legal, or expert, as the Attorney General deems necessary for the
protection of the interests of the District through the proper conduct of its legal
"(d) ELECTIONS; DISABILITY; FILLING VACANCIES.
"(1) The Attorney General shall be elected on a partisan basis by
the registered qualified electors of the District. The term of office of the Attorney
General shall be four years, except as provided in paragraph (4), and shall begin at noon
on January 2 of the year following his or her election. The Attorney General's term of
office shall coincide with the term of the Mayor.
"(2) If the Attorney General is disabled from performing his or
her official duties, the Deputy Attorney General shall perform the duties of the Attorney
General during such disability. If the Attorney General is disabled from performing his or
her official duties and the Deputy Attorney General is also disabled, the Mayor shall
appoint one of the Assistant Attorneys General to perform the official duties of the
Attorney General during the disability of the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney
"(3) In the event of a vacancy in the Office of the Attorney
General, the Deputy Attorney General shall be continued in this office and shall perform
all statutory duties of the Attorney General until an Attorney General is duly qualified.
In the event that the Deputy Attorney General is disabled or is unable to fill the vacancy
in the Office of the Attorney General, the Mayor shall appoint one of the Assistant
Attorneys General to perform the statutory duties of the office during the disability of
the Deputy Attorney General or until an Attorney General is duly qualified.
"(4) To fill a vacancy in the Office of the Attorney General, the
Board of Elections and Ethics shall hold a special election in the District on the first
Tuesday occurring more than one hundred and fourteen days after the date on which such
vacancy occurs, unless the Board of Elections and Ethics determines that such vacancy
could be more practically filled in a special election held on the same day as the next
general election to be held in the District occurring within sixty days of the date on
which a special election would otherwise have been held under the provisions of this
subsection. The person elected Attorney General to fill a vacancy in the Office of the
Attorney General shall take office on the day in which the Board of Elections and Ethics
certifies his or her election, and shall serve as Attorney General only for the remainder
of the term during which such vacancy occurred.
"(5) Within 60 days of the effective date of this Act, the Mayor,
with the approval of the Council, by resolution shall appoint an Attorney General who
shall serve until succeeded by an elected Attorney General. If the Council does not
approve or disapprove the Mayor's nominee within the 60 days, the Mayor's resolution shall
be deemed approved. The first election for Attorney General shall take place in 2002.
"(e) RESTRICTIONS ON PRIVATE PRACTICE The Attorney General
shall devote full time to the duties of the office and shall not directly or indirectly
engage in the private practice of law or lobbying for compensation.
"(f) ANNUAL REPORT. On or before October 31, the Attorney
General shall annually prepare and report to the Mayor and the Council a concise statement
of all matters pertaining to his or her official duties, making such suggestions and
recommendation as to the amendment and the proper and economical administration of the
"(g) IMPLEMENTATION OF LAWS. When the Attorney General
determines, after such investigation as shall be necessary, that any part of the District
government charged with the implementation of any act of the Council is failing or
refusing to implement such act, he or she shall notify the head of the respective
governmental entity by letter of such determination. If, within ten working days of the
receipt of such letter, it is not established to the Attorney General's satisfaction that
steps to implement the act are being expeditiously taken, and there is no valid reason for
failing to do so, such as a failure of an appropriation, the Attorney General shall file
an action in the appropriate court to compel implementation. In any such action, the head
of the respective governmental entity shall defend the action, and may engage private
counsel for such defense. At the conclusion of the action, if the court rules against the
respective governmental entity, the costs and a reasonable Attorney's fee as fixed by the
court shall be paid out of the appropriation of the respective governmental entity to the
Office of the Attorney General.
"(h) BUDGET. The Attorney General shall prepare and submit
to the Mayor, for inclusion in the annual budget, annual estimates of the expenditures and
appropriations necessary for the operation of the Office of the Attorney General. All such
estimates shall be forwarded by the Mayor to the Council for its action pursuant to
Sections 446 and 603(c). The Mayor and the Council are empowered to review and amend, as
is deemed appropriate, the Attorney General's budget proposal.
Sec. 5 The Council shall transmit copies of this resolution, upon its
adoption, to the Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton.
Sec. 6 This resolution shall take effect immediately upon the first
date of publication in either the District of Columbia Register, the District of Columbia
Statutes-at-Large, or the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations.