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DC Attorney General Seeks Council Approval for Allowing DC Government Lawyers to Run for Attorney General

Monday, July 8, 2013

DC Attorney General Seeks Council Approval for Allowing DC Government Lawyers to Run for Attorney General

WASHINGTON, D.C. – District of Columbia law should be amended to allow lawyers employed by the D.C. government to run for Attorney General, a position that will become an elective one next year, D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan told a D.C. Council committee today.

Testifying before the Committee on Government Operations, Nathan said that D.C. law should conform to a Hatch Act Modernization Act passed by Congress last year that said D.C. employees were no longer subject to restrictions in the federal Hatch Act that applied exclusively to federal employees.

It is an “unintended consequence” of current law that some potential candidates “with the most relevant experience and perspectives” to be D.C. Attorney General are barred from running for the office unless they resign from their D.C. employment, Nathan said. Because the primary election is scheduled for next April, the Council “should amend the law as quickly as possible,” he said.

Nathan explained that the law governing next year’s elections limits candidates for Attorney General to lawyers residing in the District who have practiced law here for at least five of the last ten years, or are a judge or law professor. He noted the irony that the statute expressly recognizes that working for the D.C. government as a lawyer is a way to qualify for the office, but then requires the lawyer to quit working for D.C. to run for Attorney General.

Few successful private law practitioners “are willing to give up their lucrative practices for the burdens of this office,” Nathan said, adding that, “For the benefit of all of our citizens, we should insure the widest possible pool for this important and demanding position.”

The Attorney General noted that even if the law is amended, lawyers currently employed by the District government still must abide by strict ethics rules and restrictions barring them from using government time and resources for political activity or soliciting contributions from subordinates.

CONTACT:  
Ted Gest, Public Information Officer
202-727-6283
ted.gest@dc.gov

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