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January 05, 2010

D.C. Council seeks to make attorney general an elected job

Peter_Nickles The Washington Post reports:

The D.C. Council is expected to approve legislation Tuesday that would require the city's attorney general to be elected by voters, not appointed by the mayor, and to meet certain qualifications -- a bill that comes amid the council's ongoing friction with Attorney General Peter Nickles, a longtime friend of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's.

Last month, the council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary approved the legislation by a 4 to 1 vote. The measure would end mayoral appointment of the city's chief lawyer and put the District in line with 43 states that elect attorneys general.

Nickles "is a typical spokesman for the mayor," said council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the committee and a co-sponsor of the bill. "The office has repeatedly issued letters as if they were independent opinions but clearly state the political positions of the mayor's administration."

Mendelson, who proposed a similar initiative before Fenty appointed Nickles interim attorney general in January 2008, said that the legislation is not aimed at Nickles but at strengthening the office.

While we in GLAA are much happier with Peter Nickles now (after his superb brief in the marriage-initiative case) than we were in October 2008, and while Nickles has a point in raising the potential drawbacks of turning the AG job into an elected position, there is something to be said for making the AG directly answerable to the people he is sworn to serve, instead of the present arrangement in which he acts as the mayor's personal consigliere.


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I don't really know anything about this issue in terms of pros and cons. But I think sometimes our city starts acting like a state, and our politicians start just looking for ways to score points against each other. We're 600,000 people. Is there any way that most residents will actually be informed enough to vote intelligently for the city A.G.? Most of us don't even know our council-members. This is inside baseball (I think.)

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