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SUPERIOR COURT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
DOROTHY BRIZILL, 1327 Girard Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20009, (202)
THELMA JONES, 2217 T Place, SE, Washington, D.C. 20020, (202) 678-8194,
ANTHONY MUHAMMAD, 1609 21st Place, SE, Washington, D.C. 20020, (202)
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND ETHICS
441 4th Street, N.W., Suite 250,
Washington, DC 20001
Serve: KENNETH J. McGHIE, General Counsel, Defendant
Civil Action No. 2006 CA 003939 B
COMPLAINT(Petition for Review and Writ of Mandamus)
Parties and Jurisdiction
1. Plaintiff, Dorothy Brizill, (BRIZILL) is a registered qualified
elector of the District of Columbia. She is executive director of DCWatch,
a civic good government watchdog organization in Washington, DC.
2. Plaintiff, Thelma Jones (JONES) is a registered qualified elector of
the District of Columbia. She is president of the Fairlawn Citizens
Association, Inc., the local civic organization in the Anacostia-Fairlawn
3. Plaintiff, Anthony Muhammad (MUHAMMAD) is a registered qualified
elector of the District of Columbia. He is the Advisory Neighborhood
Commissioner (ANC) for ANC 8A01 and chairs ANC8A, which includes the
4. Defendant, District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics
("the Board"), is an independent agency of the District of
Columbia, composed of three members appointed by the Mayor of the District
of Columbia, to impartially regulate and conduct elections in the District
of Columbia. Among its duties and responsibilities, the Board serves as
the gatekeeper for the initiative process in the District of Columbia
under DC Code §1-1001.16 and DC Municipal Regulations, Volume 3, Chapter
5. This court has jurisdiction over this case under D.C. Official Code
§ 1-1001.16(e)(1)(A) and this court’s general equitable powers.
THE PROPOSED INITIATIVE
6. On April 10, 2006, Barry E. Jerrels (the initiative’s proponent)
submitted a proposed initiative to the Board entitled the "Video
Lottery Terminal Initiative of 2006." (The title of the initiative
was amended by the Board to the "Video Lottery Terminal Gambling
Initiative of 2006.") As proposed, the initiative would amend the
"Law to Legalize Lotteries, Daily Numbers Games, and Bingo and
Raffles for Charitable Purposes," (D.C. Official Code §3-1301 et
seq.) to authorize the licensing of video lottery terminals (more commonly
called "slot machines" and hereinafter also called "slot
machines"). The initiative would mandate that the Lottery Board of
the District of Columbia issue the initial license for a slot machine
casino to the person who owns or controls three specified lots in Square
5770 at the intersection of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King Avenue
in the historic Anacostia neighborhood of the District of Columbia. The
initiative also provides for a procedure to license additional casinos
throughout the District of Columbia.
7. The Board of Elections and Ethics advertised notice of a public
hearing to determine whether the initiative would be a proper subject for
an initiative in the D.C. Register, the official legal bulletin of the
District of Columbia, on April 21, 2006. In the same issue of the D.C.
Register, it published the Short Title Summary Statement, and Legislative
Text of the initiative and gave notice that it would hold a hearing on the
Short Title, Summary Statement, and Legislative Text immediately following
its approval of the initiative as a proper subject for an initiative.
8. Under District law, the Board is charged with determining whether a
proposed measure is a proper subject for a voter initiative pursuant to
criteria prescribed by statute. To that end, the Board must reject any
proposed initiative that is contrary to the terms of the Home Rule Act,
seeks to amend the Home Rule Act, would appropriate funds, would violate
the U.S. Constitution, is not in compliance with the Office of Campaign
Finance filing requirements, is not in the proper legislative form, would
unlawfully discriminate, or would negate or limit a budget act.
9. At its hearing on May 3, 2006, the Board approved the initiative as
a proper subject for an initiative. Despite objections, the Board then
immediately moved into the examination of the proposed Short Title and
10. The Board did not allow any discussion of the Legislative Text of
the proposed initiative, and said that examination of Legislative Text was
beyond its purview and powers.
11. After hearing testimony regarding the Short Title and Summary
Statement, the Board adjourned. During its adjournment, it drafted a
substantially revised Short Title and Summary Statement, after which it
delivered the final language to the open hearing.
12. Public notice of the Board’s actions at the May 3, 2006, meeting
was subsequently published in the D.C. Register on May 12, 2006. The D.C.
Code allows for the filing of a complaint within 10 days of publication.
This action is therefore a timely challenge to the proposed initiative
under D.C. Code §§11001.16(e)(1)(A).
THE BOARD’S HEARING ON THE SHORT TITLE AND SUMMARY STATEMENT OF THE
INITIATIVE WAS NOT PROPERLY ADVERTISED AND HELD AND THE BOARD DID NOT
ALLOW ANY DISCUSSION OF THE LEGISLATIVE TEXT
13. The Board improperly held a single hearing on the same day to
consider both whether the initiative were a proper subject for an
initiative and to consider the Short Title, Summary Statement, and
Legislative Text that had been prepared by the proponent. However, D.C.
Official Code §§1-1001.16(c) and (d) clearly requires a two-step process
in which, after the Board approves an initiative as a proper subject, it
prepares its own Short Title, Summary Statement, and Legislative Text.
Only then can it advertise the Short Title, Summary Statement, and
Legislative Text that it has prepared and hold a separate public hearing
14. The Board’s hearing on the Short Title, Summary Statement, and
Legislative Text of the initiative was incomplete and improperly
restricted. The Board improperly refused to hear any testimony on the
Legislative Text of the initiative, and said that examination of the
Legislative Text was beyond its purview and powers, even though
§§1-1001.16(c)(3) specifically directs it to prepare the text of an
initiative in proper legislative form, and authorizes it to consult
legislative experts to assist it to ensure that the initiative is in
proper legislative form.
THE BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND ETHICS SHOULD HAVE REJECTED THE PROPOSED
15. The Board of Elections and Ethics should have found that the
"Video Lottery Terminal Gambling Initiative of 2006" was not a
proper subject for a voter initiative under District law because the
initiative (a) seeks to amend or overturn a federal law, which is contrary
both to the Home Rule Act and the U.S. Constitution; (b) requires the
appropriation of funds; and (c) seeks to exercise mayoral authority, which
violates the Home Rule Act.
16. The proposed initiative should have been rejected because it
attempts to amend or overturn a federal law, which conflicts both with the
District of Columbia Home Rule Act and the U.S. Constitution. Article I,
Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution gives Congress exclusive power to
define the District of Columbia’s legislative authority. The Home Rule
Act, Sec. 602(a)(3), says that the City Council of the District of
Columbia cannot "enact any act, or enact any act to amend or repeal
any Act of Congress, which concerns the functions or property of the
United States. . . ." The initiative process is subject to the same
legislative restrictions that are imposed on the D.C. Council when it
deliberate and adopts laws. This initiative attempts to enact District of
Columbia legislation that would overturn the "Johnson Act," a
federal law. By enacting expressly preemptive statutes, Congress preempts
state authority to legislate on the same subject, and the "Johnson
Act," 15 U.S.C. 1171-1178, makes it "unlawful to manufacture,
recondition, repair, sell, transport, possess, or use any gambling device
in the District of Columbia. . . ." (15 U.S.C. 1175(a)).
17. The proposed initiative should have been rejected because it is a
"law appropriating funds," which is not a proper subject of an
initiative under D.C. Law. The initiative mandates the Lottery Board of
the District of Columbia to license at least one slots casino. It requires
the Lottery Board to account for and manage "All funds, fees, fines,
or other revenues collected by the Board with respect to the licensing,
operation, administration, or regulation of VLTs, including but not
limited to any VLT usage fees. . . ." (Initiative §2) It requires
the Board to "create and publish regulations setting forth a
procedure by which Persons may apply for the Initial License."
(Initiative §5(a)) It makes the Board responsible for creating
regulations and supervising a licensing process for any additional
gambling licenses. (Initiative §6) It requires the Board to create a
permitting form and process for manufacturers and service technicians
dealing with the gambling machines. (Initiative §9) It requires the Board
to determine the suitability of licensees (Initiative §12), to adopt
rules to regulate slots casinos, and to regulate those casinos (Initiative
§15). It requires the Executive Director of the Lottery Board to
investigate and inspect slots casinos and to enforce its regulations
(Initiative §15) and to "Engage, train, supervise and direct such
staff, as the Executive Director and the Board shall deem necessary or
appropriate to enable the Executive Director to perform his duties and
obligations under this chapter." (Initiative §15(5))
18. The District of Columbia Lottery Board is a District agency that is
within the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the District of
Columbia, and operates under the direction of the CFO. The General Counsel
of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Jerry L. Malone, submitted a
letter to the DC Board of Elections and Ethics on May 3, 2006, that said
that "the Initiative, if passed, would establish a regulatory scheme
under which the DC Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board (‘DCLB’)
would be mandated to assume additional regulatory functions. There are
costs, as yet undefined, inherently associated with undertaking such
additional regulatory functions." The duties mandated, required, and
imposed by this initiative could clearly not be accomplished by the
Lottery Board with its present staff, expertise, equipment, and resources.
Thus, the initiative imposes costs and expenses on the District of
Columbia, and would require an appropriation of funds.
19. The proposed initiative should have been rejected because it is not
a proper legislative subject, but instead impinges upon and usurps what
are mayoral powers under the Home Rule Act. The initiative mandates and
requires the awarding of a license to the person who owns or controls lots
that are specified in the initiative. The decision of whether or not to
award a license is an executive or administrative prerogative, and falls
under the powers and authority of the mayor. The City Council cannot
legislatively award a license or direct the mayor to award a license to
any individual. Just as the Council cannot require the Lottery Board to
award a license to operate a lottery terminal to the person who operates a
business at a specific address, an initiative cannot require the Lottery
Board to issue a license to operate a slots casino to the person who owns
or controls property at a specific address.
20. The proposed initiative should have been rejected because it is not
otherwise a proper subject for an initiative in the District of Columbia.
WHEREFORE, plaintiffs ask the court to find that the Board should have
held a separate and separately advertised hearing to review the Short
Title, Summary Statement, and Legislative Text of the initiative that it
prepared; and to find that the initiative is not a proper subject for an
initiative; and that it direct the Board to reject the proposed
initiative, and to grant further appropriate relief.
Dorothy Brizill, pro se
Thelma Jones, pro se
Anthony Muhammad, pro se
May 22, 2006
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I hereby certify that I did, this day, May 22, 2006, personally deliver
a copy of this complaint and Writ of Mandamus to Kenneth McGhie, General
Counsel, District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics, 441 4th
Street, NW, Suite 250, Washington, DC 20001.