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Calling all qualified candidates for AG

Calling qualified candidates to run for D.C. Attorney General!

In 2010, the D.C. Council passed a bill to make the Attorney General an elected office as of 2014. Voters were asked to approve and they did. While there was much debate over whether this was good for the District, the voters determined that the independence it would bring to the office was worth the risk.

The Georgetown Dish
The Georgetown Dish

It will now be important to elect someone with the proper credentials rather than someone just using the office as a stepping stone to the mayor’s office. Since the voters approved an elected AG, many people have been thinking and talking about what kind of a candidate they could support for that office.

Contrary to most states, the Office of Attorney General (OAG) in DC does not and will not prosecute criminal cases. That will remain with the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The OAG is charged by statute with conducting the District’s legal business. There are currently 340 attorneys and about 300 staff dispersed throughout 28 agencies. This makes the OAG one of the largest law offices in the District and the 10th largest Attorney General’s Office in the nation. Even though DC is not a state, the OAG does the business of local and state government in one office.

The OAG works on civil litigation and provides legal representation to District agencies, employees and officers. The OAG represents the District in nearly all defensive civil litigation including tort, contract, civil rights, equity and class action cases; appeals of the civil and criminal judgments; child abuse and neglect cases; adult criminal and juvenile delinquency proceedings; antifraud, antitrust and consumer protection matters; civil enforcement of regulations; neighborhood and victim services; and child support enforcement.

In the past, individuals with a variety of backgrounds and personalities served as Corporation Council and then Attorney General, the name of the office as changed by Mayor Anthony Williams in 2004. The Attorney General was appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Council. Now under an elected system it will be crucial to have someone who is independent, wants to serve the people of the District, and preferably, rather than a current politician, is someone with an extensive legal background and management ability.

For example: Someone of the stature of William P. Lightfoot, former councilmember at-large and currently managing partner at Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, LLP.

Or, Robert J. Spagnoletti, a partner at the law firm of Schertler & Onorato, L.L.P., where his practice focuses on criminal, civil, and administrative litigation. Spagnoletti also served as the District’s first Attorney General.

Or, Pauline A. Schneider who has a strong background in District and federal issues and is currently a partner at Orrick where she heads their public finance group in the D.C. office.

Let me make it clear, I have not discussed with them whether or not they would run for the office. I do think they are the models for what potential candidates for the office should exemplify.

-- by Peter D. Rosenstein

Peter Rosenstein has worked on political campaigns both locally and nationally and served on the Boards of non-profit organizations. He Chaired the Issues Committee for the campaigns of former Mayors Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty during Fenty's first campaign.