(Washington, D.C.) Mayor Anthony Williams today signed an order renaming the Office of the Corporation Counsel for the District of Columbia to the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia. The mayoral order also designated Robert J. Spagnoletti as the first Attorney General for the District of Columbia. This change in nomenclature marked an important step in the ongoing efforts of the District of Columbia to earn its rightful place alongside the 50 states.
Since 1902, the District’s chief legal officer has been known as the Corporation Counsel, responsible for representing the District of Columbia, a municipal corporation, in virtually all of its legal affairs. During the past century, however, as the District assumed many state-level responsibilities, the Office of the Corporation Counsel likewise assumed many functions currently exercised at the county and state levels by County Attorneys and the state Attorneys General. Currently, there are over 300 mandatory and discretionary duties handled by the Office. These duties include: civil litigation, child abuse and neglect, criminal prosecution, juvenile delinquency, consumer protection and antifraud, civil enforcement of regulations, domestic violence, mental health commitment actions, appellate work in both the local and federal courts, employment and personnel matters, real estate and procurement, community development, child support enforcement, and equity and class actions. Given the varied responsibilities and duties, the denomination, Office of the Corporation Counsel, for many years, has not accurately reflected the work performed by the agency.
The newly-designated Attorney General lauded the Mayor’s historic Order and observed the significance of its timing with the District’s continued struggle to receive benefits long enjoyed by the 50 states.
“This name change comes at an important time in the District’s history. In an era when the District struggles for voting rights and is compelled to bring a lawsuit for the right to tax nonresidents, a simple name change for the Office of the Corporation Counsel sends a strong message to our citizens that we are, indeed, a state in practice, if not in fact.”
Lynne Ross, Executive Director of the National Association of Attorneys General, was present and praised the Office of the Corporation Counsel for its continued dedication to protecting District consumers from unfair trade practices and fraud. Although the Office of the Corporation Counsel has been a member of the National Association of Attorneys General since 1988, it was the only member of the Association which did not, in fact, have an Attorney General.
The newly-renamed Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia is one of the largest and most diverse government legal offices in the country. There are 240 attorneys within the Office and nearly 100 attorneys dispersed throughout the subordinate agencies. Mr. Spagnoletti commended his attorneys and support staff for their outstanding legal representation and dedication to the legal needs of the District of Columbia and looked forward to new challenges as the Attorney General for the District of Columbia.