Appeals court won’t revisit D.C. attorney general election


Gary Thompson (L) and Paul Zukerberg stand outside the District’s U.S. Courthouse Thursday after oral arguments. (Mike DeBonis/The Washington Post)

Updated 2:10 p.m. with Zukerberg comment

In what will almost certainly be the final judicial word on the matter, the District’s highest court said it would not revisit its ruling that the District’s first attorney general election must take place this year or as soon as practically possible thereafter.

The D.C. Court of Appeals ruling — which declines a rehearing request made by the sitting attorney general, Irvin B. Nathan — represents a victory for Paul H. Zukerberg, the criminal defense attorney who went to court to challenge the D.C. Council’s September vote to delay the first AG election from 2014 to 2018.

Zukerberg is now one of two declared candidates for the office, which could be filled in a Nov. 4 special election. The other is Mark H. Tuohey, a well-connected white-collar defender.

District voters in 2010 approved a charter amendment that made the attorney general’s office an elected position, scheduling the first election “after Jan. 1, 2014.” The council, with Nathan’s backing, argued that language permitted the delay. But the high court disagreed, saying that the charter amendment could not be overridden by the council.

Zukerberg hailed the ruling: “It looks like it’s over. I hope it’s over,” he said. “All this work was just to get us back to where we should have been a year ago. … Now the real campaign campaign work is underway.” A spokesman for Nathan’s office had no immediate comment.

The D.C. Council was set to vote Tuesday on whether to formally set the first election for Nov. 4.

According to the court’s order Tuesday, three judges — Chief Judge Eric T. Washington and Associate Judges Anna Blackburne-Rigsby and Phyllis D. Thompson — wanted an “en banc” review of the case by the eight-judge court. (A ninth seat is vacant.) But that was not enough to grant a rehearing.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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Mike DeBonis · June 24, 2014