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Forum on Defederalizing D.C.'s Criminal Justice System E-mail

On Thursday, November 30, 2017, a forum on how to transfer back to the people of D.C. the District's criminal justice system, which is now completely under federal control, was held at the University of the District of Columbia David Clarke Law School.

Unlike all states and the jurisdictions within them, the U.S. Attorney for D.C., who is appointed by the President with the consent of the U.S. Senate, prosecutes District crimes. As with all other all U.S. Attorneys, the Attorney General of the United States oversees the U.S. Attorney for D.C, not the Mayor of D.C.  or the D.C. Council.Thus, U.S. Attorney responds to federal concerns and policies regarding the exercise of his or her prosecutorial powers.

Similarly, all the judges in D.C's court system (D.C. Superior Court and D.C. Court of Appeals) are also appointed by the President with the consent of the U.S. Senate. When the Senate slows down its approval of federal judges because of some Federal policy concerns, it usually affects whether D.C. vacancies are filled.This has major ramifications on whether District residents can get a speedy trial. D.C. prisoners also go to Federal prisons, often a long way from their homes, which weakens ties with their families and makes re-entry into society much more difficult.

Although the Metropolitan Police Force reports to the Mayor and is responsive to the people of D.C., the Federal government controls D.C.'s Parole BoardProbation Agency and Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. This bifurcation of responsibilities leads to a lot of problems. In her farewell press conference, former Police Chief Cathy Lanier noted her frustration with so much of our criminal justice system being under the federal government and outside local control. She said that “(t)he criminal justice system in this city is broken. It is beyond broken.” She was talking about this bifurcation of control over essential criminal justice functions and the lack of coordination to which that leads

These issues were discussed by:

Johnny Barnes: Former Executive Director of the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, livingwiththelaw.com

Avis Buchanan: Director, Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, www.pdsdc.org

Louis Sawyer: Chair, Reentry Task Force

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has introduced a number of bills in the House that would defederalize many of these criminal justice entities. When the residential and commercial areas of the current District become a state, we would take over these functions. It is important that we begin planning now and even begin transferring some or all of these functions to our local government. Please come and learn more about the issues and help us plan how to transition to statehood with full local control of our criminal justice system.

The forum focused on the parole board. Currently the U.S. Parole Commission oversees parole issue for D.C. inmates who have been convicted of crimes under D.C. law.  The federal law authorizing them to do this expires in November 2018 so this would be an opportune time to seek to get Congress to transfer this responsibility back to the District Government.

To hear a detailed analysis of the issue and its mpact D.C. prisioners, go to:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1XHn1zUcVY. The forum lasted 1 hour and 40  minutes.

 
D.C. Delegate Norton Seeks to remove House Budget riders E-mail

On September 14, 2017, the House approved the fiscal year 2018 D.C. Appropriations bill which contains five anti-home rule riders where Congress is legislating only because D.C. is not a state and Congress is our unelected state legislature. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton released a press release describing her efforts to remove these riders. The riders seek to overturn D.C. Council legislation and prevent implementation of legislation regarding 5 home rule issues. The bill would repeal the District's Death with Dignity Act and the Budget Autonomy Act and block D.C. from spending local tax monies on abortion services for low-income women, taxing and regulating marijuana sales, and implementing the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act. Congress must pass the appropriations act by December 8, 2017.

Norton noted that “House Republicans express endless love of local control of local affairs, their central party principle, except when it comes to the District of Columbia. They preach the constitutional principle of federalism, yet use the big foot of the federal government to undemocratically overturn and block local D.C. policies they disagree with, solely on a political basis."

 

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D.C. PAC, Americans for Self-Rule,Targets Virginia's Rep. Thomas Garrett E-mail

Rachel Kurzius reported in the August 31, 2017 dcist.com on the campaign by Americans for Self-Rule, a new a non-profit Political Action Committee founded to protect the democratic will of DC residents from Congressional overreach and to promote the District’s right to independent, democratic self-governance, to unseat Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-VA).

Garrett is a first term Freedom Caucus member who represents Virginia's fifth district that runs vertically through the state from Fauquier County south through Charlottesville to the North Carolina border ( a great example of gerrymandering!). He has introduced the Second Amendmenet Enforcement Act of 2017, which would gut D.C.'s gun laws and make it difficult to enact new ones. Only because D.C. is not a state can Congress pass a law targeting the District in this way.

Americans for Self-Rule is running advertisements targeting Rep. Garrett. He was photographed last March with Jason Kessler, organizer of the August 12, 2017 white supremacist "Unite the Right" rally which led to the death of Heather Heyer. This fact is the subject of some of the PAC's advertisements.

 

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House seeks to overturn DC reproductive discrimination ban E-mail

Washington Post reporter Jenna Portnoy reports on the latest efforts by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to meddle in local D.C. affairs by attaching riders to the D.C. Appropriations Act. In particular, she discusses Rep. Gary Palmer's (R-AL) amendment to the D.C. appropriation bill to block D.C. from using local funds to implement the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act. Other local D.C. laws targeted by House Republicans are the Death with Dignity Act and the law regarding legalization and regulation of marjiuana sales. Because D.C. is not a state, its local/state level government budget must be approved by Congress which allows Congress to amend or overturn D.C. laws and to prescribe how the District government spends locally raised tax funds.

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D.C.'s "Flushable Wipes" Law Survives E-mail
In 2016, the District of Columbia Council passed a law banning certain "flushable wipes" that do not dissolve and clog the District's pipes and filtration equipment. Maryland Congressman Andy Harris (R) tried to overturn the ban, but did not get support for his amendment and withdrew it during the House Appropriations Committee's markup on July 14, 2017. The issue is discussed in a July 5, 2017 artixle in the Current Newspaper.
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