Loose Lips

Paul Zukerberg Jumps Into Attorney General Fight

Defense attorney and unsuccessful at-large D.C. Council candidate Paul Zukerberg is best known for his activism on behalf the District's pot smokers, but he could soon be pressing a less crunchy issue in court. Zukerberg filed suit against the D.C. Council and the Board of Elections today over delaying the District's attorney general election, a day before the Council is set to hold a second vote on legislation that would move the election from 2014 to 2018.

In his complaint, Zukerberg accuses the defendants of creating a chilling effect to keep away candidates. "We need to put the kibosh on this right away if we're going to have a fair election on April 1," he tells LL.

Zukerberg is just the most colorful opponent of moving the election from 2014 to 2018. Several councilmembers, including chairman Phil Mendelson, have come out against the delay. Groups like DC Appleseed and the League of Women Voters have issued statements opposing the legislation.

Zukerberg's lawsuit asks D.C. Superior Court to prevent the Board of Elections from removing the attorney general from the 2014 ballot. It would also stop the Council from reducing the attorney general's powers from what they were when voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum to make the position elected in 2010, blocking attempts to move the general counsels for District agencies out of the office.Ward 2 councilmember and mayoral hopeful Jack Evans, who's been pushing for a delay on the election, doubts that Zukerberg will be able to prevent the delay.  "Lawsuits take a long time, so the opportunity for that to have an effect is probably pretty small," Evans says.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • john labonte

    So kudos to Attorney Zukerberg’s litigation initiative and his passion for democracy. At national events like the commemoration of the March on Washington, we advertise our civic identity as “taxation without representation.” Yet having decided some time ago that the Attorney General should stand for popular election, the Council incumbents suddenly reversed themselves.

    The current A.G. Mr. Nathan is also on record as favoring the Legal Reorganization embodied earlier in Bill 20-134. One of the provisions of that proposal was the transfer of the Child Support Services Division from OAG to the Department of Human Services, where it was situated until about 15 years ago. The government union which represents us (AFSCME) testified in favor of that change last March, and my colleagues in Child Support were desperately looking forward to that transition, and with it, the hope of prospective new leadership of our Division.

    While under the Office of Attorney General the last 10 years or so, the Director and other senior managers in CSSD have presided over an office of high productivity, but afflicted with low morale. The workers have been subject to poor personnel practices, written up peevishly for minor infractions, such as returning a few minutes late from break, without prior verbal counseling to create a paper trail. Even more troubling has been a pattern of using City Investigators to harass or intimidate career employees, on multiple occassions..

    Questions of propriety were raised concerning a multimillion dollar procurement contract that was terminated. A memorandum of understanding between management and the union concerning that contract may have been breached. Beginning in March 2011, the Superior Court rejected multiple pleadings of the Child Support Offices as noncompliant with Domestic Relations rules for paternity and support cases. This resulted in a critical backlog of more than 500 cases, a situation that was inexplicably concealed from the enforcement workers, and unjustly attributed to the Legal Services Section Chief, who was summarily fired. When the Director appealed that ruling, the rejection of city pleadings was upheld by Magistrate Kravitz.In a case known as Marquis Burt v. D.C, Magistrate Kravitz. in August 2011. That opinion rebuked the agency’s practices:”In the final analysis, it was the District’s own carelessness and questionable legal strategy, that are primarily responsible for the unfortunate delay in the resolution of these cases on their merits.” That legal strategy was the workproduct of Agency Director Benidia Rice. D.C. and the child support workers deserve better.

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