D.C. to decide on AG elections

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Nov 1, 2010


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - When District of Columbia voters head to the polls Tuesday they will be faced with the question of whether they want the position of attorney general to be appointed by the mayor or elected by the people.

Currently, the District's attorney general is appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the D.C. Council.

Should Tuesday's ballot initiative pass, D.C. residents could elect the attorney general themselves. The attorney general's four-year term would then coincide with the mayor's, starting in 2014.

The attorney general's responsibilities include enforcing D.C. laws, prosecuting and defending on behalf of the District, and providing legal advice to city officials.

Those in support of the charter amendment say it is a long time coming, and it will better protect against attorneys general like Peter Nickles, whom many have described as unresponsive to citizen concerns.

The current D.C. attorney general announced in September he plans to resign this year. He announced his resignation following his boss' loss in the Democratic primary election for mayor.

Nickles said he would not work for D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, who defeated Mayor Adrian Fenty in the primary.

Fenty had nominated Nickles to the attorney general post in 2008 after Linda Singer resigned.

Gray, in June, called for the removal of Nickles, saying he betrayed the public's trust. He claimed Nickles "inappropriately politicized his role and facilitated the Mayor's cronyism."

In September, Nickles said he would stick around to make sure the transition to Gray's administration was smooth and benefits the city. Then, he said, he would announce his resignation effective at the end of the year.

Meanwhile, opponents of the charter amendment on Tuesday's ballot say it could have a chilling effect on unpopular prosecutions and might deter qualified candidates.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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