D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has yet again introduced legislation to create an elected prosecutor in the District of Columbia.
The bill, HR 4009, would create a local district attorney capable of conducting criminal prosecutions currently handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. It would also give the official the power “to perform civil enforcement and other legal functions as provided by local law.”
“There is no law enforcement issue of greater importance to our residents, or on which we have less say, than the prosecution of local crimes here,” Norton said in a statement introducing the legislation Tuesday. “A U.S. Attorney has no business in the local criminal affairs of a local jurisdiction. This bill simply would make the District's prosecutor accountable to the people by electing him or her, as elsewhere in the nation.”
Norton introduced similar bills in 2003, 2006 and 2007. The 2007 bill petered out after making it to a hearing before House Committee for Oversight and Government Reform. A Norton spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.
In January, at-large D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson, chair of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, introduced a bill that would have made the D.C. Attorney General an elected position. His bill, still in committee, would not have given the office prosecutorial power.
“The basic concept of having local control over local prosecutions is a very good and long overdue proposal,” Mendelson said of the Norton legislation.
Local officials have been advocating for an elected prosecutor for over a decade, but have failed to get the necessary Congressional approval. Councilmember at-large David Catania first introduced a bill that would have created one in 1998. In a statement, Norton’s office noted that District residents approved the creation of an elected prosecutor in a 2002 referendum.