Eleanor Holmes Norton
On the Introduction of the
District of Columbia District Attorney Establishment
Act of 2009
November 3, 2009
Madam Speaker, today I introduce the District of Columbia
District Attorney Establishment Act of 2009, continuing a series of bills
that I will introduce this session to ensure a continuation of the process
of the transition to full democracy and self-government for the residents
of the District of Columbia. This bill is the seventh in our "Free
and Equal D.C." series of bills to eliminate anti-Home Rule
legislation and to remedy obsolete or inappropriate congressional laws to
the local affairs of the District of Columbia or denials of federal
benefits or recognition routinely granted to other jurisdictions.
This bill would establish an Office of District Attorney
for the District of Columbia, to be headed by a district attorney elected
by D.C. residents. This bill would effectuate the November 2002 referendum
in which D.C. voters overwhelmingly (82 percent) approved a locally
elected District Attorney.
This important legislation is designed to put the District
of Columbia on par with every other local jurisdiction in the country by
allowing D.C. residents to elect an independent district attorney to
prosecute local criminal and civil matters now handled by the U.S.
Attorney for the District of Columbia, a federal official. Under this
bill, the new, locally elected district attorney would become the city's
chief legal officer. The United States Attorney’s Office for the
District of Columbia would remain and, like other U.S. Attorneys’
offices in the U.S., would handle only the federal matters under its
jurisdiction. As presently constituted, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the
District is the largest in the country only because it serves mainly as
the local city prosecutor. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District
of Columbia needs to be freed up to handle national security and other
vital federal cases, particularly in the post-9/11 nation's capital.
There is no law enforcement issue of greater importance to
our residents, or on which we have less say, than the prosecution of local
crimes here. A U.S. Attorney has no business in the local criminal
affairs of a local jurisdiction. This bill simply would make the District’s
prosecutor accountable to the people by electing him or her, as elsewhere
in the nation.
In addition to issues of democracy and self-government,
such as congressional voting rights and legislative and budget autonomy,
that District residents are entitled to as American citizens, residents
are determined to achieve each and every other element of home rule.
Amending the District’s Home Rule Act to create a local district
attorney position would be an important development toward our goal of
achieving true self-government. I urge my colleagues to support this
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(Original Signature of Member)
111TH CONGRESS 1ST SESSION
H. R. ll To amend the District of Columbia Home Rule Act to establish
the Office of the District Attorney for the District of Columbia, headed
by a locally elected and independent District Attorney, and for other
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Ms. NORTON introduced the following bill; which was referred to the
Committee on ____________
To amend the District of Columbia Home Rule Act to establish the Office
of the District Attorney for the District of Columbia, headed by a locally
elected and independent District Attorney, and for other purposes.
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 ‘‘District of Columbia 5 District
Attorney Establishment Act of 2009’’.
SEC. 2. ESTABLISHMENT OF OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR THE
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Part F of title IV of the District of Columbia Home
Rule Act (sec. 1–204.91 et seq., D.C. Official Code) is amended
by adding at the end the following new section: ‘‘OFFICE OF THE
DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
“SEC. 497. (a) ESTABLISHMENT.—There is hereby established the
Office of the District Attorney for the District of Columbia (hereafter
in this section referred to as the ‘Office’), to be headed by the
District Attorney for the District of Columbia (hereafter in this
section referred to as the ‘District Attorney’).
“(b) GENERAL POWERS AND DUTIES.—The District Attorney shall be
the chief legal officer for the District of Columbia, and in the
performance of such duties shall—
“(1) prosecute the local criminal laws of the District of
Columbia, including violations committed by both adult and juvenile
offenders, and perform any related functions as provided by local
law in the District of Columbia; and
“(2) have the authority to perform civil enforcement and other
legal functions as provided by local law in the District of
“(c) GENERAL QUALIFICATIONS.—
“(1) IN GENERAL.—No individual may serve as District Attorney
unless the individual—
“(A) is a qualified elector;
“(B) is domiciled in the District;
“(C) 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;
“(D) 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 individual, while District Attorney, 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 person serving on active duty under a call for more than
thirty days; and
“(E) 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 in any jurisdiction.
“(2) RESTRICTIONS ON PRIVATE PRACTICE.—
The District Attorney shall devote full time to the duties of the
office and shall not directly or indirectly engage in the private
practice of law.
“(3) FORFEITURE OF OFFICE.—The District Attorney shall
forfeit the office upon failure to maintain the qualifications
required by this subsection.
“(d) ELECTIONS; FILLING VACANCIES; INITIAL APPOINTMENT.—
“(1) ELECTIONS.—The District Attorney shall be elected on a
partisan basis by the registered qualified electors of the District.
The term of office of the District Attorney shall be four years,
except as provided in paragraph (3), and shall begin at noon on
January 2 of the year following the election. The District Attorney’s
term of office shall coincide with the term of the Mayor. The first
election for the District Attorney shall take place in 2010.
“(2) VACANCIES.—To fill a vacancy for the position of
District Attorney, 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 sub8 section. The person shall take office on the
day in which the Board of Elections and Ethics certifies his or her
election and shall serve as District Attorney only for the remainder
of the term during which such vacancy occurred.
“(3) INITIAL APPOINTMENT.—Not later than 30 days after the
date of the enactment of the District of Columbia District Attorney
Establishment Act of 2009, the Mayor, by resolution, shall appoint a
District Attorney who shall serve until succeeded by an elected
District Attorney. The proposed resolution shall be submitted to the
Council for a 30-day period of review, excluding days of Council
recess. If the Council does not approve or disapprove the proposed
resolution within the 30-day review period, the resolution shall be
(b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT.—The table of sections of part F of title IV
of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act is amended by adding at the end
the following new item:
“Sec. 497. Office of the District Attorney for the District of
SEC. 3. RESPONSIBILITY OF DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR THE DISTRICT OF
COLUMBIA FOR CONDUCT OF ALL PROSECUTIONS.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Section 23–101, D.C. Official Code, is amended by
striking subsections (a) through (f) and inserting the following:
“(a) Prosecutions for violations of all police or municipal
ordinances or regulations of the District of Columbia and for violations
of all penal statutes of the District of Columbia in the nature of
police or municipal regulations shall be conducted in the name of the
District of Columbia by the District Attorney for the District of
Columbia or the District Attorney’s assistants, except as may
otherwise be provided in any such ordinance, regulation, or statute.
“(b) An indictment or information brought in the name of the United
States in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
may include charges of offenses prosecutable by the District of Columbia
if the District Attorney for the District of Columbia consents to the
inclusion of such charges in writing.
“(c) An indictment or information brought in the name of the
District of Columbia in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
may be joined for trial in the United States District Court for the
District of Columbia with an indictment or information brought in that
court if the offenses charged therein could have been joined in the same
indictment or information and if the District Attorney for the District
of Columbia consents to such joinder.
“(d) Nothing in this section shall affect the authority of the
Attorney General of the United States or the United States Attorney for
the District of Columbia to exercise jurisdiction concerning violations
of the laws of the United States.”.
(b) CONFORMING AMENDMENTS.—
(1) APPEALS.—Section 23–104, D.C. Official Code, is amended by
striking “Corporation Counsel” each place it appears in subsections
(a)(1), (b), and (d), and inserting “District Attorney for the
District of Columbia”.
(2) PROCEEDINGS TO ESTABLISH PREVIOUS CONVICTIONS.—Section 23–111(a)(1),
D.C. Official Code, is amended by striking “Corporation Counsel” and
inserting “District Attorney for the District of Columbia”.
(3) DEFINITION OF PROSECUTOR.—Section 23–501, D.C. Official Code,
is amended by striking “Corporation Counsel of the District of
Columbia” and inserting “District Attorney for the District of
(c) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendments made by this section shall apply
with respect to violations of District of Columbia ordinances,
regulations, and statutes which occur after the expiration of the 6-month
period which begins on the date of the enactment of this Act.