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October 13, 2010

GLAA endorses the Elected Attorney General Charter Amendment

We said it in Agenda: 2010, but it's time to say it more prominently:

As a result of emergency legislation adopted by the D.C. Council on June 1, District voters will decide by referendum this November whether to amend the Home Rule Charter to replace the current procedure, in which the city’s attorney general is appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Council, with an elected attorney general whose four-year term coincides with that of the Mayor. GLAA endorses this referendum.

As Councilmember Phil Mendelson said, “The city's chief legal officer needs to represent the public's interest and not any particular branch of government. This makes the AG more independent.”

Attorney General Peter Nickles, expressing support for changing his job to an elected position, said, “In most states, the attorney general is elected. ... But most times the attorney general is thinking about running for governor. He’s a separate, independent force. So whoever’s going to look at this is going to need to take into account whether they want an attorney general who is politically motivated.”

Mr. Nickles raises a legitimate concern; but the status quo, in which the AG is widely seen as serving the Mayor’s interests rather than those of the city as a whole, hardly eliminates political motivation. Given the importance of ensuring that the AG serves all of the people, we support making it an elected position.

The text of the Charter Amendment is here.

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As Councilmember Phil Mendelson said, “The city's chief legal officer needs to represent the public's interest and not any particular branch of government. This makes the AG more independent.”

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