Updated at 1:53 p.m.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D), along with Attorney General Irvin Nathan, today announced his plan for the city's transition in 2014 to an elected attorney general. The proposed legislation (PDF) calls for a separate Mayor's Office of Legal Counsel to oversee in-house agency attorneys and changes the chain of command for agency attorneys.
Voters approved a referendum in 2010 to create an independent attorney general's office. The changes laid out in Gray's proposal would go into effect in October 2014, shortly before the election and several months before the new attorney general would take office.
Under Gray's plan, agency legal divisions would no longer report to the attorney general's office. Instead, agency general counsel would report to their agency heads. The Mayor's Office of Legal Counsel, which would include a director appointed by the mayor and a small group of lawyers, would coordinate agency legal departments and provide legal advice to the mayor and executive branch.
Members of the attorney general's office who primarily work for an agency would move to that agency. According to the attorney general's office, that change would affect about 140 employees, including an estimated 100 lawyers. The bill would also add a new provision to the D.C. Code stating that none of the changes would affect the attorney-client privilege between the attorney general's office and agency personnel.
The attorney general's office is expected to keep most of its current functions after it becomes independent, including defending the city against litigation and prosecuting certain misdemeanors and juvenile crime.
However, Gray's bill would shift responsibility for child support enforcement actions to the city's Department of Human Services. According to the attorney general's office, approximately 220 people, including about 20 lawyers, would transfer out as part of that change.
Gray's bill will go to the D.C. Council's judiciary and public safety committee for consideration. A spokesman for the committee chair, Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), declined to comment this morning. Guiding the transition to an elected attorney general is expected to feature prominently on the judiciary committee's agenda leading up to the 2014 election.
In a statement, Nathan called on the council to "take prompt action to enact the changes proposed in this bill before individual candidates for the elected Attorney General emerge, so that we have a set of reforms that will work in the long term to strengthen the institutions of the District’s Executive Office of the Mayor as well as OAG.”