Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) today introduced the District of Columbia District Attorney Establishment Act of 2011, the sixth bill in her “Free and Equal D.C.” series, to establish an Office of the District Attorney for the District of Columbia. The office would be headed by a district attorney elected by D.C. residents, to prosecute the local criminal laws, which are now handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, a federal office.
“There is no law enforcement issue of greater importance to D.C. residents, or on which they have less say, than the prosecution of local crimes,” said Norton in the bill’s introduction statement. “A U.S. attorney has no business prosecuting the local criminal laws of a jurisdiction, an anomaly from the past that is out of place in 21st century home-rule D.C. The goal of the legislation is to put the District of Columbia on par with every other local jurisdiction in attention to its local criminal laws.”
Norton said the majority of the workload of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia consists of local criminal cases, making the U.S. attorney here more of a district attorney than a U.S. attorney. She said the U.S. attorney here needs to do his federal work and leave local criminal cases to a local district attorney.
The Norton bill follows a November 2002 referendum in which 82 percent of D.C. voters approved a locally-elected D.A, and is unrelated to the 2010 referendum to permit D.C. voters to elect the attorney general, whose duties do not include prosecuting most local crimes.
The congresswoman has already introduced five bills in her “Free and Equal D.C.” series, the New Columbia Admission Act (statehood), the District of Columbia Equal Representation Act (Senate and House votes), the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act (a House vote), the District of Columbia Budget Autonomy Act of 2011, to allow D.C.’s budget to take effect immediately without congressional approval, and the District of Columbia Legislative Autonomy Act of 2011, to eliminate the congressional review period for civil and criminal legislation passed by the District.