Attorney General of the District of Columbia

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

since 2 January 2015
Term length Four years, renewable
Formation 1973
Website Office of the Attorney General

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

Charter amendment

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  %
Referendum passed 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 delays

In July 2012,[3] the DC 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 DC 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 D.C. 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 election

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 of the District of Columbia

No. Name Took Office Left Office Mayor(s)
15 Irvin B. Nathan January 2011 17 November 2014 Vincent C. Gray
14 Peter Nickles[16] January, 2008[17] 2011 Adrian Fenty
13 Linda Singer January 2, 2007 January 5, 2008
12 Robert Spagnoletti 2003 2006 Anthony A. Williams
Interim Arabella W. Teal[18] 2002 2003
11 Robert Rigsby 2000 2002
10 John M. Ferren [19] September 24, 1997[20] April 19, 1999 Marion Barry; Anthony A. Williams
9 Charles F.C. Ruff 1995 February 1997 Sharon Pratt Kelly; Marion Barry
8 Vanessa Ruiz 1994 October 1994 Sharon Pratt Kelly
7 John Payton 1991 1994
6 Frederick D. Cooke, Jr. 1987 1990 Marion Barry
5 Inez Smith Reid 1983 1986
4 Judith W. Rogers[21] 1979 1983 Walter Washington; Marion Barry
3 John R. Risher[22] 1976 1978 Walter Washington

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.


  1. "General Election 2010". District of Columbia Board of Elections.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "The Elected Attorney General Charter Amendment" (PDF). District of Columbia Board of Elections. August 13, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "D.C. Council delays first election of attorney general". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-04-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Attorney Paul Zukerberg Suing DC Council Over Timing of Attorney General Election". Retrieved 2014-02-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "D.C. Judge: AG Race Won't Be on April 1 Ballot". CBS. Retrieved 2014-04-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Paul Zukerberg Appeals Attorney General Election Decision". Retrieved 2014-02-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Matt Cohen (February 7, 2014). "There Will Not Be An Attorney General Election This April". DCist. Retrieved August 12, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Matt Cohen (June 4, 2014). "Court Rules City Must Hold Attorney General Election This Year (UPDATE)". DCist. Retrieved June 12, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Matt Cohen and Sarah Anne Hughes (June 13, 2014). "Board Of Elections Hands Over Ballot Petitions For An Elected Attorney General". DCist. Retrieved June 14, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Mike DeBonis (2014-07-16). "Lorie Masters seeks D.C. attorney general post in November election". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-10-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Mike DeBonis (2014-07-07). "Edward 'Smitty' Smith, former federal lawyer, joins D.C. attorney general race". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-07-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Jennifer van der Kleut (2014-07-16). "D.C. attorney general race: One candidate drops out, four new ones jump in". ABC7 WJLA. Retrieved 2014-07-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine takes sides in Obama immigration fight". Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-01-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Karl Racine wins first-ever race for D.C. attorney general". Washington Post. 4 November 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Biography at Covington & Burling
  17. David Nakamura (October 18, 2008). "D.C. Drafts Suit Against Bank for Tax-Scam Cash". The Washington Post: 2. Retrieved April 26, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Nickles began his tenure as Acting Attorney General.)
  18. Press Release from Teal's time as Corporation Counsel
  19. Biography at DC Court of Appeals
  20. DC Bar interview
  21. Official Biography
  22. Richard Pearson (1999-02-22). "JOHN RISHER, FORMER D.C. CORPORATION COUNSEL, DIES". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-01-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links