Loose Lips

Appeals Court Overturns Attorney General Election Delay

The District will have its first attorney general election in 2014... or at least right after 2014. That's the ruling from the D.C. Court of Appeals this afternoon, which upheld attorney general candidate Paul Zukerberg's lawsuit against the D.C. Board of Elections in an attempt to hold the vote this year.

Even though the D.C. Council voted to move the election to 2018 last year on the grounds that the bill establishing the election only required the first election to take place "after Jan. 1, 2014," the appeals court ruled that the language meant instead that the election should take place in 2014, not any time afterwards.

“We conclude that a far more natural reading of ‘shall be after January 1, 2014’ is that an election for the District’s Attorney General must be held in 2014," the order reads.

With the November general election five months away, the appeals court sent the case back to Superior Court, where a judge will decide whether the election can be held this year.

“If the District can establish that an election in 2014 is not practically possible, then the election must be held as soon thereafter in 2015 as is practically possible," the order reads.

The D.C. Board of Elections referred LL's question about whether it could schedule the vote this year to the Office of the Attorney General. OAG spokesman Ted Gest said the agency will have a statement on the ruling later this afternoon.

The ruling represents a win for Zukerberg, a failed D.C. Council at-large candidate and marijuana activist who got a second life in District's politics after suing over the delayed election.

Despite losing a court fight to keep the office on the April 1 primary ballot and facing reluctance from the District's Office of Campaign Finance to treat him as a candidate in an actual race, Zukerberg says he never doubted that his case would win out. Now he welcomes other candidates to enter the race.

“Whoever wins is going to want a competitive race to have legitimacy," Zukerberg says.

Zukerberg has a very slight edge on newcomers to the field—as of late March, he had nearly $5,000 in his campaign treasury, according to OCF records.

“Today I assume the donations are off the charts," Zukerberg says.

Update, 3:45 p.m.: In a statement, the Office of the Attorney General says it will ask the full appeals court to review the decision. Here's the full statement:

We are studying the Court’s Order and awaiting its opinion. We continue to believe that the Council of the District of Columbia had the authority to interpret the 2010 Charter Amendment to authorize a statute scheduling the Attorney General election to be in 2018, and we will be drafting a petition to the full en banc court of the D.C. Court of Appeals on that key point. We will also be working with the Board of Elections and the Council to develop a full explanation of the practical and legal issues associated with rushing to hold the Attorney General election in 2014, which we will present in any further Superior Court proceedings following the Court of Appeals’ final decision.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • joan

    Irv Nathan has demonstrated nothing but contempt for District voters. He makes me miss Peter Nickels

  • DCShadyBoots

    It is a good sign when politicians and political appointees are afraid of the idea of an independent Attorney General. This is GREAT news for the citizens of the District of Columbia.

  • DCShadyBoots

    It is time for the District RESIDENTS to select our Attorney General. I thought we made that clear.

  • Anonymous,Too

    @ShadyBoots--yeah, and we've made other things resoundingly clear--like the 60+ percent of DC voters that chose term limits back in the late 1990s--only to be ignored by smug, self-serving CMs like Jack Evans, who led the charge to overturn the law.

  • Anonymous,Too

    Oh, and thank you, Paul, for all your work on this!

  • Marvin E. Adams

    @Anonymous, Too: I find it incredulous that the residents of this city voted on an issue(s), overwhelmingly, I might add, only to allow the elected officials to overturn and/or disregard their desires. The blame should N-O-T be at the feet of Jack Evans, et al, but that of the 1)ignorance or apathy of the residents, or worse yet - both; 2) Democratic monopoly, and last, but definitely not least a culture which persists, which allows individuals who are elected to represent the will of the voters, to do just the opposite without fear of retribution.

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