WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- The Washington Post, in an editorial this week, called the D.C. Council's decision to make the district's attorney general elected instead of appointed "ill-advised," and warned the council to be careful in restructuring the office.
On Tuesday, the Post said the council was "so anxious" in 2010 to "get back at" then-Mayor Adrian Fenty and his "much-maligned" attorney general, Peter Nickles, that they rushed through legislation for a referendum allowing for an election of an attorney general.
"No heed was given to concerns about how changing to an elected attorney general might impinge on the executive's ability to govern or what it might cost taxpayers," the newspaper's editorial board wrote. "Now the chickens have come home to roost as officials contemplate a transition to the new office and are confronted with the realities of their ill-advised decision."
In 2010, 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.
In 2015, the Attorney General's Office will become fully independent of mayoral control.
In February, legislation was proposed to help implement the voters' choice.
The legislation, discussed at a meeting of the council's judiciary committee last month, would help effectuate that change.
One bill would expand the attorney general's authority, while the other would remove lawyers from the elected attorney general's supervision.
Current Attorney General Irvin Nathan testified that the soon-to-be elected office should be granted further subpoena powers.
Nathan -- who says he does not plan to run for election in 2014 -- explained that restrictions put in place in 2010 currently make it more difficult to issue subpoenas.
But defense attorneys argued, in response, that the legislation would give the District's attorney general "overly broad" subpoena power and could potentially be abused.
Also under the legislation, the Attorney General's Office would be stripped of lawyers and staff who serve as counsel to agencies in the executive branch.
Instead, a new office -- under the Mayor's Office -- would be created and its director would coordinate the work of those staffers currently assigned to the agencies.
"The question now is whether the changes proposed by the mayor constitute an undermining of the people's will," the Post wrote.
"Future administrations should not be crippled by the failure of past councils to do their homework, so we hope the council finally gives thoughtful consideration to this issue."
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.