WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray, along with Attorney General Irvin Nathan announced Thursday proposed legislation to help implement the voters' choice -- made in 2010 -- to give the District an elected attorney general starting in 2015.
At that time, the Attorney General's Office will become fully independent of mayoral control.
The legislation proposed would help effectuate that change.
"The District's voters made clear in 2010 that they want a fully independent attorney general, and this legislation is a crucial element in ensuring that the voters' will is carried out," Gray said in a statement.
In the 2010 general election, a majority of voters favored the District's Home Rule Charter be amended to allow the election of an attorney general.
Currently, the District's attorney general is appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the D.C. Council.
Gray urged the council to act promptly on the bill so that decisions are made before the 2014 electoral process. The Attorney General's Office begins with a primary election in April 2014, he noted.
"I commend the in-depth work and study of Attorney General Nathan and the OAG Task Force on this significant issue as we prepare to have our first elected attorney general in the District of Columbia and move towards an executive structure like that adopted by most of the states," the mayor said.
"I also call on the council to enact my proposed bill to strengthen the OAG's subpoena authority to ensure that the streamlined OAG can be more effective and efficient in its work."
Gray said the bill reflects the "core government principle" that the chief executive must generally control budget and policy choices of the executive branch, while the attorney general must generally control the executive's litigation and legal opinions.
To implement that principle and the Attorney General's Office's move to full independence, the bill proposes three key changes. They would take effect in October 2014 -- shortly before the scheduled general election for attorney general and the new attorney general's assumption of office in January 2015:
- The bill transfers the chain of command for general counsel offices in executive branch agencies from reporting to the attorney general to reporting to their agencies' directors, who are appointed by the mayor;
- The bill transfers from the OAG to the Department of Human Services the Child Support Services Division, which helps people who care for children collect child support from non-custodial parents, and helps divorced people collect spousal support; and
- It proposes the creation of a small new office of lawyers, reporting to the mayor, who will handle some duties currently carried out by OAG -- including directing cross-agency coordination on subordinate executive branch agency legal issues and lawyer-training responsibilities.
Nathan also asked the council to move swiftly on the proposed legislation.
"After the 2014 election, the Attorney General's Office will continue to represent the District's government in a wide range of legal matters, including affirmative civil enforcement and defensive civil litigation and public safety functions, as well as advice-giving and the rendering of legal opinions to government officials," he said.
"We urge the council to take prompt action to enact the changes proposed in this bill before individual candidates for the elected attorney general emerge, so that we have a set of reforms that will work in the long term to strengthen the institutions of the District's Executive Office of the Mayor as well as OAG."
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.