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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
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D.C. Attorney General Hopeful Can’t Rush Suit

(CN) - Washington's postponement of elections for the attorney general office cannot be challenged ahead of a congressional review, a federal judge ruled.

The position became an elected, rather than an appointed, office in November 2010 when 76 percent of D.C. voters supported an amendment of the city charter.

Eight months before the first scheduled election for D.C. Attorney General in 2014, however, the City Council voted to postpone the election until 2018.

The mayor did not veto the law, and it went to Congress for its mandatory 30-day review of D.C. legislation on Oct. 24, 2013. Because of Congress' schedule, however, this 30-day review period will not end until after Dec. 20, perhaps even as late at the first week of January.

Paul Zukerberg, a D.C. voter and potential candidate for D.C. Attorney General, challenged the City Council's decision, seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent its enforcement while candidates collected signatures and raised money to run in the scheduled 2014 primary election.

But, "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," U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled last week.

Until the 30-day review period is complete, the legislation is not final, and therefore not subject to court review, according to the ruling.

"In assessing finality and concreteness in the context of this dispute, the court must decide whether the 2013 Act, which would effectively cancel the 2014 Attorney General election, is final enough for the court to consider plaintiff's challenge - that is, whether action pursuant to the Act is 'certainly impending,'" Boasberg wrote. "To state the question is to supply its answer, for it is uncontroversial that a law that has not yet been passed, is not yet binding, and may never 'have its effects felt' at all cannot be considered final."

There is no precedent of any case in which a federal court allowed a pre-passage challenge to a statute on the ground that it was inevitable that it will pass.

In addition, while the high likelihood the 2014 election will be postponed may have a chilling effect, discouraging candidates from running and donors from contributing money to collect the necessary signatures, "hardship alone cannot transform an unripe case into a ripe one," the 15-page opinion states.

Boasberg concluded: "That the 2013 Act has a potential impact on Zukerberg's actions before it becomes binding, then, cannot independently support judicial review."

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