Updated at 6:12 p.m.
A Washington federal judge today denied an injunction that would have blocked D.C. Council legislation delaying the city's first election for an attorney general. The problem, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said, was that the legislation in question wasn't formally a law yet.
Paul Zukerberg, a local criminal defense lawyer and former candidate for the council, sued the city challenging a measure passed on Oct. 1 pushing the attorney general election back from 2014 to 2018. Zukerberg sued as a private citizen and also recently declared his intent to run for the attorney general job if the election went forward.
Zukerberg argued that a preliminary injunction was necessary given fast-approaching deadlines related to the 2014 election. Boasberg said that because the law in question wasn't final—it's awaiting approval by Congress—the court lacked jurisdiction to consider Zukerberg's challenge.
"While Zukerberg raises an interesting challenge, the Court has no power to rule on that question today, as none of his claims is ripe for review," Boasberg wrote.
Zukerberg said today he was confident he would prevail. "The fight goes on," he said. "We’re going to continue to fight this and I think that once it gets to the merits that we’re still going to win." Zukerberg is being represented by Reed Smith partner Gary Thompson.
A spokesman for the attorney general's office, Ted Gest, said officials were reviewing the decision and did not have any immediate comment.
Legislation passed by the D.C. Council goes before Congress for review before becoming law. Although the council passed the measure and the mayor did not veto it, Boasberg said, there remained the possibility that Congress could "nullify it." Boasberg noted that until Congress took action either way, Zukerberg was free to pursue his campaign.
Boasberg didn't touch the substance of Zukerberg's challenge to the delay, noting that Zukerberg could renew his motion for an injunction if and when the measure officially became law. However, Boasberg warned that the federal court might not be the best forum for the dispute, signaling doubt that the case truly involved federal constitutional claims that would give him jurisdiction.
Zukerberg initially filed the case in D.C. Superior Court, but the city removed it to the U.S. district court. If Zukerberg had any doubts about the viability of his constitutional claims, Boasberg said, he could refile the case in Superior Court. Noting that neither side devoted much attention to the constitutional claims issues in their briefs, Boasberg said that if Zukerberg renewed his request for an injunction in the future, "the Court trusts he will shore up any insufficiencies in his pleadings in this regard."
Zukerberg said he would be discussing the forum issue with his lawyers. "We think we can get a favorable opinion in any court before any judge," he said.