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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

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Norton Introduces Bill to Give D.C. a Local Prosecutor, Same Right Already Enjoyed by U.S. Territories

Mar 15, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced the District of Columbia Local Prosecutor Establishment Act of 2017 to create a local prosecutor’s office, designated under local law, to prosecute all local crimes in the District of Columbia.  Under federal law, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, a federal entity, is responsible for prosecuting almost all local crimes committed by adults here, the greater part of its caseload, in addition to prosecuting federal crimes.  Norton noted that the territories of the United State all have local prosecutors to prosecute local crimes.  Norton’s bill effectuates a 2002 advisory referendum, approved by 82 percent of D.C. voters, to create a local prosecutor’s office.

In her introductory statement, Norton said, “There is no law enforcement issue of greater importance to D.C. residents on which they have less say than the prosecution of local crimes here.  A U.S. Attorney has no business prosecuting the local crimes of a jurisdiction, an anachronism that is out of place in any American self-governing jurisdiction.  In fact, the territories of the United States—Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands—all have local prosecutors to prosecute local crimes.  The absence of a local D.C. prosecutor is one more anachronism from the pre-home rule days when D.C. had no local government.  The goal of this bill is to give the District the same jurisdiction over the criminal justice matters that state, local, and territorial jurisdictions justifiably regard as mandatory.”

Norton’s full introductory statement is below.

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on the Introduction of the District of Columbia Local Prosecutor Establishment Act of 2017

March 15, 2017

Ms. Norton.  Mr. Speaker.  Today, I introduce the District of Columbia Local Prosecutor Establishment Act of 2017, to give District of Columbia residents another element of the self-government enjoyed by all other American citizens, including those in the U.S. territories.  The bill would establish a local prosecutor’s office designated under local law to prosecute all local crimes in the District.  Under federal law, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, a federal entity, is responsible for prosecuting most local crimes committed by adults here, which is the greater part of its caseload, in addition to prosecuting federal crimes.  This bill is special because it effectuates a 2002 advisory referendum, approved by 82 percent of D.C. voters, to create a local prosecutor’s office.

There is no law enforcement issue of greater importance to D.C. residents on which they have less say than the prosecution of local crimes here.  A U.S. Attorney has no business prosecuting the local crimes of a jurisdiction, an anachronism that is out of place in any American self-governing jurisdiction.  In fact, the territories of the United States—Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands—all have local prosecutors to prosecute local crimes.  The absence of a local D.C. prosecutor is one more anachronism from the pre-home rule days when D.C. had no local government.  The goal of this bill is to give the District the same jurisdiction over the criminal justice matters that state, local, and territorial jurisdictions justifiably regard as mandatory.

Amending federal law to create a local prosecutor would be an important step toward our goal of achieving true self-government.  I urge my colleagues to support this important measure.

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