Norton Urges Senate Democrats to Question D.C. Federal Nominees on Residency, Familiarity with D.C., After White House Nominates Non-D.C. Residents for the U.S. District Court and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia

Jun 13, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today called on Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to question nominees for federal positions in the District of Columbia, including federal district court judge, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshal, on whether they intend to reside in D.C. during their terms.  The White House last week formally nominated its first three individuals for the federal district court here, including Dabney Langhorne Friedrich of California and Trevor N. McFadden of Virginia.  Yesterday, the White House announced its intent to nominate Jessie Liu, who is a Virginia resident, to serve as U.S. Attorney here.

“It is critical that federal district court judges, U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals understand the people and issues of the jurisdictions they serve, and living in the jurisdictions where their decisions apply keeps them in touch with many relevant issues 24/7,” Norton said.  “We are offended that there is a unique patronage exemption in federal law for the District of Columbia.  The principle of local residency of federal officials serving their district in the states and territories is otherwise nearly universally recognized.  The exemption is particularly inappropriate for the U.S. Attorney for D.C., whose major responsibility is prosecuting almost all crimes committed by adults under local D.C. law.”

Under federal law, in nearly every U.S. jurisdiction, federal district court judges, U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals are required to reside within the jurisdictions where they have been appointed—but no such residency requirement exists for officials serving in the District.  Even in the U.S. territories, such officials must live in those districts, other than the U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshal appointed for the Northern Mariana Islands who at the same time are serving in the same capacity in another district.  The only other exceptions exist for officials appointed to the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of New York, which are the only districts that serve different parts of the same city.  In April, Norton introduced a bill to require these officials serving in D.C. to live in D.C.  The bill is part of her “Free and Equal D.C.” series of legislation, which insists on equal rights for D.C. residents, which is possible under the Home Rule Act even before the District achieves statehood.

In March, Norton wrote to President Trump requesting that he extend her the courtesy of consulting on the appointment of these officials—the same courtesy extended to her by President George W. Bush.  The Trump White House has not consulted Norton on nominations.  Presidents Clinton and Obama extended Norton the courtesy to recommend these officials in the same manner as Democratic senators, and all of Norton’s recommendations were D.C. residents or committed to residing in the District during their terms.  Pursuant to this authority, Norton formed a commission of distinguished lawyers and non-lawyers, chaired by a former president of the D.C. Bar, to screen and recommend candidates, and Norton then made her recommendations to the president from among those candidates.