Delay to D.C. attorney general election will go before highest local court


D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan leaves his office for a meeting in this file photo. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

The District’s highest local court will weigh in on the D.C. Council’s decision last year to delay the first election of the city’s attorney general.

Paul Zukerberg, a lawyer and candidate for the office who has sued the city over the four-year delay, filed papers Wednesday asking the D.C. Court of Appeals to review a judge’s decision that effectively keeps the attorney general’s office off the April 1 primary ballot.

“It’s the responsible thing to do,” Zukerberg said of his decision to appeal. “That’s why we have a Court of Appeals.”

The D.C. attorney general is currently appointed by the mayor. But a charter amendment that went to voters in 2010 and passed overwhelmingly called for the post to become an elected office after 2014. The council voted last year to delay the first election till 2018, arguing that key details about the office’s operation had yet to be finalized.

Zukerberg filed a lawsuit challenging that decision last year, saying the council did not have the power to delay the election. But his effort was set back last week, when a Superior Court judge ruled that he had not shown he would be “irreparably” harmed by not appearing on the primary ballot.

The ballots are now in the process of being printed, city elections officials have said. It is unclear when the appeals court might hear Zukerberg’s emergency petition. The D.C. courts were closed Thursday because of the snowstorm.

Ted Gest, a spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General, which is defending the city against Zukerberg’s lawsuit, said it will oppose the appeal “because we believe it has no merit.”

Zukerberg said he was not certain what options there may be at this point to keep the election in 2014. A council bill that would put the office on the November general election ballot without a primary was clouded Monday after the sitting attorney general, Irvin B. Nathan, questioned its legality.

Should the appeals court accept his arguments that the lower court judge erred, Zukerberg said, “we’ll find out where we are in the process and what can be done.”

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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