Attorney General for the District of Columbia

The Attorney General for the District of Columbia is the chief legal officer of the District of Columbia. Previously appointed by the Mayor, District of Columbia voters approved a charter amendment in 2010 which made the office an elected position beginning in 2015.

Attorney General of the District of Columbia
DC Attorney General Seal.png
Seal of the Office of the Attorney General
Karl Racine.jpg
Karl Racine

since 2 January 2015
Term lengthFour years, renewable
WebsiteOffice of the Attorney General

Charter amendmentEdit

In the November 2, 2010 general election, voters approved Charter Amendment IV that made the office of Attorney General an elected position.

Charter Amendment IV[1][2]
Choice Votes %
  Yes 90,316 75.78
No 28,868 24.22
Total votes 119,184 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 453,014 26.30

Election delaysEdit

In July 2012,[3] the District of Columbia council voted to postpone the election of attorney general to 2018, citing a dispute over how much power the elected attorney general would have. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson called the vote "an embarrassment." [3]

In September 2013, Paul Zukerberg filed suit against the District of Columbia Council and the city elections claiming any delay would violate the District charter — which was amended through the 2010 ballot question to provide for the election of the city’s top lawyer.[3] Attorney General Irv Nathan initially argued that Zukerberg was not suffering any “meaningful hardship” from pushing back the election.[4]

On February 7, 2014, a District of Columbia Superior Court judge ruled that ballots for the April 1 primary could be printed without the Attorney General race.[5] Zukerberg appealed the ruling, declaring himself a candidate and arguing that he would suffer "irreparable harm" if the election were postponed.[6][7]

On June 4, 2014, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's decision. The Court held "that the Superior Court's interpretation was incorrect as a matter of law" and reversed. The Court ruled that the original language in the Elected Attorney General Act is ambiguous in stating the election "shall be after January 1, 2014," and that the attorney general referendum ratified by a majority of District of Columbia voters in 2010 made it seem as though the election would take place in 2014.[8] On June 13, Zukerberg collected nominating petitions.[9]

2014 electionEdit

Joining Zukerberg as candidates for the position were insurance litigator and activist Lorie Masters, federal lawyer Edward "Smitty" Smith, white-collar attorney Karl Racine, and legislative policy analyst Lateefah Williams.[4][10][11][12] Racine secured a plurality victory, winning 36% of the votes cast, and was sworn in as the first elected Attorney General in January 2015.[13][14][15]

Previous Attorneys General[a] for the District of ColumbiaEdit

Appointed After Home RuleEdit

No. Name Took Office Left Office Mayor(s)
14 Irvin B. Nathan January 2011[16] November 17, 2014[16] Vincent C. Gray
13 Peter Nickles[17] January 2008[18][16] 2011 Adrian Fenty[16]
12 Linda Singer January 2, 2007[16] January 5, 2008[16]
11 Robert Spagnoletti 2003[16] 2006[16] Anthony A. Williams
Interim Arabella W. Teal[19] 2002[16] 2003[16]
10 Robert Rigsby 1999[16] 2002[16]
Interim Jo Anne Robinson 1999[16] 1999[16]
9 John M. Ferren[20] September 24, 1997[21] April 19, 1999 Marion Barry; Anthony A. Williams
Interim Jo Anne Robinson 1997[16] 1997[16] Marion Barry
8 Charles F.C. Ruff 1995 February 1997
Interim Garland Pinkston 1995[16] 1995[16]
Acting Erias Hyman 1994[16] 1995[16] Sharon Pratt Kelly
7 Vanessa Ruiz 1994 October 1994
6 John Payton 1991 1994
Acting Beverly J. Burke 1991[16] 1991[16] Marion Barry; Sharon Pratt Kelly
Acting Herbert O. Reid Sr. 1990[16] 1991[16] Marion Barry
5 Frederick D. Cooke, Jr.[22] 1987 1990
Acting James R. Murphy 1986[16] 1987[16]
Acting John H. Suda 1986[16] 1986[16]
4 Inez Smith Reid 1983[16] 1986[16]
3 Judith W. Rogers[23] April 12, 1979[24][16] 1983[16]
Acting Louis P. Robbins[24] June 1978[16] April 12, 1979[16] Walter Washington; Marion Barry
2 John R. Risher[25] 1976[16] June 1978[24] [16] Walter Washington
1 C. Francis Murphy[26] 1970[16] 1976[16]

Appointed Before Home RuleEdit

Name Took Office Left Office President(s) of the Board
C. Francis Murphy 1970 1976 Mayor-Commissioner Walter Washington
Charles T. Duncan[27][28] 1966 1970 Walter Nathan Tobriner
Chester H. Gray 1956 1965 Robert E. McLaughlin, Walter Nathan Tobriner
E. Barrett Prettyman 1934 1936 Melvin Colvin Hazen
William W. Bride 1927 1934 Proctor L. Dougherty; Luther Halsey Reichelderfer; Melvin Colvin Hazen
Conrad H. Syme[29] 1913 1920 Oliver Peck Newman; Louis Brownlow
Edward H. Thomas[30] 1905 1913 Henry Brown Floyd MacFarland; Cuno Hugo Rudolph
Andrew B. Duvall[31][32] 1899 September 12, 1905 John Brewer Wright; Henry Brown Floyd MacFarland
Sidney J. Thomas 1893 1899 John Wesley Ross; John Brewer Wright
George C. Hazelton 1889 1893 John Watkinson Douglass


  1. ^ "General Election 2010". District of Columbia Board of Elections. Archived from the original on November 23, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  2. ^ "The Elected Attorney General Charter Amendment" (PDF). District of Columbia Board of Elections. August 13, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 8, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "District of Columbia Council delays first election of attorney general". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Attorney Paul Zukerberg Suing District of Columbia Council Over Timing of Attorney General Election". Retrieved February 21, 2014.
  5. ^ "District of Columbia Judge: AG Race Won't Be on April 1 Ballot". CBS. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
  6. ^ "Paul Zukerberg Appeals Attorney General Election Decision". Archived from the original on February 16, 2015. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  7. ^ Matt Cohen (February 7, 2014). "There Will Not Be An Attorney General Election This April". DCist. Archived from the original on March 10, 2014. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  8. ^ Matt Cohen (June 4, 2014). "Court Rules City Must Hold Attorney General Election This Year (UPDATE)". DCist. Archived from the original on October 16, 2014. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  9. ^ Matt Cohen and Sarah Anne Hughes (June 13, 2014). "Board Of Elections Hands Over Ballot Petitions For An Elected Attorney General". DCist. Archived from the original on November 6, 2017. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
  10. ^ Mike DeBonis (July 16, 2014). "Lorie Masters seeks D.C. attorney general post in November election". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 12, 2014.
  11. ^ Mike DeBonis (July 7, 2014). "Edward 'Smitty' Smith, former federal lawyer, joins D.C. attorney general race". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 22, 2014.
  12. ^ Jennifer van der Kleut (July 16, 2014). "D.C. attorney general race: One candidate drops out, four new ones jump in". ABC7 WJLA. Retrieved July 22, 2014.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 20, 2015. Retrieved December 4, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine takes sides in Obama immigration fight". Washington Post. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  15. ^ "Karl Racine wins first-ever race for D.C. attorney general". Washington Post. November 4, 2014. Retrieved November 4, 2014.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al "District of Columbia Former Attorneys General". National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  17. ^ "Former D.C Attorney General Peter Nickles returns to law firm". Washington Business Journal. American City Business Journals. January 6, 2011. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  18. ^ David Nakamura (October 18, 2008). "D.C. Drafts Suit Against Bank for Tax-Scam Cash". The Washington Post: 2. Retrieved April 26, 2016. (Nickles began his tenure as Acting Attorney General.)
  19. ^ Press Release Archived April 6, 2016, at the Wayback Machine from Teal's time as Corporation Counsel
  20. ^ "Biography at District of Columbia Court of Appeals" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 6, 2012. Retrieved February 8, 2016.
  21. ^ District of Columbia Bar interview
  22. ^ Biography at Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris & Cooke, L.L.P.
  23. ^ "Official Biography at District of Columbia Circuit". Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  24. ^ a b c Milton Coleman (April 12, 1979). "Barry Appoints Corporation Counsel". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  25. ^ Richard Pearson (February 22, 1999). "JOHN RISHER, FORMER D.C. CORPORATION COUNSEL, DIES". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  26. ^ "C. Francis Murphy Dies". The Washington Post. July 30, 1993. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  27. ^ Adam Bernstein (May 7, 2004). "D.C. Lawyer, Educator Charles Duncan Dies". Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  28. ^ "Legends in the Law: Charles T. Duncan". Bar Report. June–July 1996. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  29. ^ J. R. Cole (1917). "History of Greenbrier County": 166–171. Retrieved March 24, 2017. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  30. ^ District of Columbia. Board of Commissioners (1905). "Annual Report of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia". 4: 34. Retrieved March 24, 2017. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  31. ^ Richard A. Ford, ed. (1905). "The Daily Washington Law Reporter". 33: 577. Retrieved March 24, 2017. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  32. ^ "Eminent and Representative Men of Virginia and the District of Columbia in the Nineteenth Century: With a Concise Historical Sketch of Virginia". Brant & Fuller. 1893: 103. Retrieved March 24, 2017. andrew b duvall district. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  1. ^ Before 1899, the position was "Attorney for the District of Columbia". By 1905, it had become "Corporation Counsel". In 2004, the office's name was changed from "Corporation Counsel" to "Attorney General" by Mayor's Order 2004-92, May 26, making Spagnoletti the only person ever to hold both titles.

External linksEdit