Back to Inspector General’s main page — Back to Mayor’s Office main page
Government and People
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Linda W. Cropp, Chairman, et al., Petitioners, v. Anthony Williams, Mayor, Respondent.
Petition Number 030A28
OPPOSITION OF RESPONDENT MAYOR ANTHONY A. WILLIAMS TO PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS
The Hon. Anthony A. Williams, Mayor of the District of Columbia, respectfully submits this response to the petition of Linda W. Cropp, et al., for a writ of mandamus.
The "Inspector General Qualifications Emergency Amendment Act of 2003" (D.C. Act 15-78, attached as Exhibit A) (hereinafter "IG Act") – enacted over the Mayor’s veto on April 29, 2003 – contravenes key provisions of the Home Rule Act (Public Law 93-198, 87 Stat. 777, D.C. Official Code Section 1-201.01 et seq. 2001 ed.), which created the District government.
The IG Act, in purpose and effect, attempts to remove the present incumbent IG, Charles C. Maddox, from his office. The Council’s enactment unlawfully infringes upon the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of the District government, mandated by Congress in the Home Rule Act. It attempts to prescribe qualifications for the office of IG different from, and more onerous than, those in effect when he was appointed, which would render Mr. Maddox ineligible for continued service as IG. Rather than being prospective, it purports to apply to the present incumbent as of June 1, 2003, and to remove him as of that date. Furthermore, as purported "emergency legislation" effective June 1, 2003 – although expiring shortly afterwards – it is structured to avoid the congressional review period provided for acts of the Council in the Home Rule Act.
A more egregious violation of the allocation of powers between executive and legislative branches in the Home Rule Act can scarcely be imagined. In view of its manifest illegality, the IG Act enacted over the Mayor’s veto is unenforceable and void. It imposes no valid obligation of law on the Mayor or any other official of the District government. It is a nullity in the eyes of the law, of no force and effect, and it must be treated as such to preserve the rule of law in the District of Columbia.
1. Preliminarily, we note that the petitioners have sought the extraordinary remedy of mandamus in this Court as an original matter, without any asserted jurisdictional basis for doing so. Jurisdiction is almost certainly lacking in this Court under the decision in Citizens Assocation of Georgetown v. Washington, 291 A.2d 699, 703, 705 (D.C. 1972).
Moreover, the petition violates every principle governing the grant of the writ of mandamus in this or any other Court. As the Supreme Court has stated: "The common law writ of mandamus…is intended to provide a remedy for a plaintiff only if he has exhausted all other avenues of relief and if the defendant owes him a clear nondiscretionary duty." Heckler v. Runger, 466 U.S. 602, 615 (1984) (emphasis supplied). Furthermore, "the remedy of mandamus is a drastic one, to be invoked only in extraordinary situations." Allied Chemical Corp. v. Daiflon, Inc., 449 U.S. 33, 34 (1980); see also Will v. United States, 389 U.S. 90, 95 (1967).
Mandamus is to be utilized only in the clearest and most compelling cases. Cartier v. Secretary of State, 506 F.2d 191, 199 (D.C. Circuit 1974), cert. denied, 421 U.S. 947 (1975), and cases therein cited. Mandamus can be invoked only when the plaintiff has a clear right to the relief sought, the defendant has a clear duty to perform, and no other adequate remedy is available. Blaney v. United States, 34 F.3d 509, 513 (7th Cir. 1994). See generally Wright, Law of Federal Courts, at 131 (5th edition 1994).
Here, every element of mandamus is lacking. The plaintiffs have not shown and cannot show either a clear right to relief or a nondiscretionary, i.e., ministerial, duty owed to them by the Mayor. Moreover, they have plainly failed to exhaust all other avenues of relief, specifically including an action for quo warranto in the Superior Court, which Congress in the D.C. Court Reorganization Act of 1970 provided in circumscribed circumstances and under carefully fashioned procedural safeguards.
The resort to a mandamus action is procedurally defective because it is an end-run around the method Congress provided to test the legality of officeholding by a public official of the District of Columbia. D.C. Official Code Section 16-3521 provides:
The code lays down specific procedures for the institution of such an action. Section 16-3522 provides:
Section 16-3523 further provides:
None of these procedures has been followed in the present case. Cf. Cartier v. Secretary of State, supra, 506 F.2d at 199-200.
Nevertheless, because of the public importance of the issues raised by this case, we will respond to the substance of the petition to show why it should be dismissed on the merits as well as on procedural grounds.
Background of the Present Controversy
2. When Congress enacted the D.C. Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Act of 1995 ("FRMAA") (Public Law 104-8, 109 Stat. 97, D.C. Official Code Section 47-391.8(a)) in 1995 to deal with the crisis which had brought the District to the verge of insolvency, it created the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority ("control board") and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer of the District of Columbia – and in Title III of FRMAA, Section 303 (D.C. Official Code Section 2-302.08), it restructured and recreated a vastly expanded Office of the Inspector General of the District of Columbia ("OIG") as one of the pillars of the recovery and reform effort. In Section 303(a) (D.C. Official Code Section 2-302.08 (1)(A)-(C)), Congress explicitly provided for the appointment and removal of the IG by the Mayor as follows:
These provisions established a number of important principles governing the OIG:
First, Congress made explicit that the OIG is within the executive branch of the District government.
Second, Congress provided for appointment of the IG by the Mayor, subject to the approval of the control board in a control year and with the advice and consent of the Council in a non-control year.
Third, Congress specified that the IG "shall be subject to removal only for cause by the Mayor" (with the approval of the control board or by the control board in a control year) and the Mayor alone in a non-control year.
Fourth, nowhere in this carefully drafted statute did Congress provide any role for the Council in the removal of the IG.
Congress went on in Section 303 of FRMAA, D.C. Code Section 2-302.08(a)(1)(D), to prescribe the qualifications for the IG in detail, as follows:
The present incumbent IG, Charles C. Maddox, was appointed to a 6-year term in 1999, a control year, by the Mayor with the approval of the control board. He was determined to be fully qualified for appointment under Section 303(a)(1)(D). (A copy of the Mayor’s order appointing Mr. Maddox and the control board resolution of approval is attached as Exhibit B).
The present year is a non-control year, the control board having suspended its operations on September 30, 2001, pursuant to FRMAA. As a result, the only applicable removal provision governing the IG is that set forth in Section 303(a)(1)(A) -- i.e., "only for cause by the Mayor."
The IG Act recently passed by the Council over the Mayor’s veto attempts to effectuate the removal of Mr. Maddox from office by act of the Council, not the decision of the Mayor, and without any showing of cause for his removal. Had the Council’s IG Act been made prospective only, it might be open to the petitioners to argue that its purpose was not to remove the present incumbent. But the attempt to apply it to the incumbent gives the game away – it is an exercise of the power of removal by the Council.
The Council’s IG Act also attempts to substitute different and more onerous qualifications for the IG from those in effect when Mr. Maddox was appointed. The Council purported to add the following qualifications for the office:
Every one of these provisions goes beyond the qualifications for the IG when Mr. Maddox was appointed. Moreover, here again the effort by the Council to apply these new and more onerous qualifications to Mr. Maddox, instead of making them prospective, gives the game away. The statute is designed so as to effectuate indirectly the unlawful purpose of removing Mr. Maddox from office, which the Council cannot do directly.
Mr. Maddox is not a graduate of an ABA-accredited law school, but of the Northern Virginia Law School, which has not yet received accreditation from the ABA. He was admitted to the Virginia State Bar in 1996 and to the D.C. Bar on November 1, 2002. Thus he has not been a member of the D.C. Bar for 7 years prior to his appointment by the Mayor as IG in 1999, and he has not had 7 years experience in the practice of law. He is not licensed as a CPA in the District and does not have 7 years experience in the practice of accounting, tax consulting, or financial consulting. There was no way in which he could acquire a CPA certificate from the D.C. Board of Accountancy and obtain 7 years experience in public accounting between enactment of the IG Act and June 1, 2003.
Under the Council’s IG Act, Mr. Maddox’s position would be declared vacant as of June 1, 2003, because he does not and cannot meet the Council’s newly adopted qualifications. And other provisions of the Council’s IG Act further demonstrate how squarely this Act is targeted at Mr. Maddox. He would not be permitted to serve in a hold-over capacity after June 1, 2003 until qualification of a successor, although that is the way in which appointed administrative officials whose terms have expired are commonly treated. And the Mayor would not be permitted to designate him to serve on an "acting basis" because he does not meet the qualifications newly prescribed by the Council.
It is not as if Mr. Maddox does not meet the qualifications for IG prescribed by Congress. On the contrary, as his resume (attached as Exhibit C) shows, he had a distinguished career of public service prior to his appointment as IG. Among other things, he served as Inspector General of the U.S. Peace Corps, General Counsel of the OIG, and Deputy OIG. When the control board unanimously approved him as IG in 1999, it determined that he was "eminently qualified to fill this vital position by reason of his background, training, experience, temperament, character, integrity, and demonstrated ability in public administration and investigations." In other words, he fully met the qualifications laid down by Congress.
The Council further overreached here by attempting to remove Mr. Maddox by passing a so-called "emergency" act which does not have to be submitted for congressional review under the Home Rule Act. (Only temporary and permanent legislative acts need be submitted for a period of congressional review before they can become effective.) Conveniently making June 1, 2003, the purported date of a vacancy in the office of IG – within the 90-day period to which "emergency" acts are limited – the Council sought to avoid any congressional review of its action and to present the Mayor, the citizens of the District, and Congress with a fait accompli in the removal of Mr. Maddox.
Violation of Separation of Powers
3. The Council’s IG Act violates central provisions of the Home Rule Act, those establishing the separation of powers within the District government along the same lines as the U.S. Constitution ordains for the federal government. Title IV of the Home Rule Act creates a tripartite structure for the District government, patterned on the federal government. See Wilson v. Kelly, 615 A.2d 229, 231 (D.C. 1992). As the Court said in Wilson v. Kelly, supra, 615 A.2d at 231:
Thus the Home Rule Act, in D.C. Official Code Section 1-203.02, provides that the Council’s "legislative power" extends to all "rightful subjects within the District", subject to certain limitations.
Of equal importance, the Home Rule Act, in Section 1-204.22, vests the "executive power" of the District of Columbia in the Mayor.
It will be recalled that Section 303(a) of FRMAA establishes the OIG as an agency "within the executive branch" of the District government and provides for the IG’s appointment and removal only by the Mayor in non-control years like the present.
It therefore follows that the U.S. Supreme Court decisions dealing with the separation of powers in the federal government—and specifically with the removal of executive branch officers—are relevant to similar issues arising in the District government. See Wilson v. Kelly, supra, 615 A.2d at 231. ("…it is reasonable to infer from this tripartite structure and the vesting of the respective ‘power’ in each branch that the same general principles should govern the exercise of power in the District of Columbia as are applicable to the three branches of government at the federal level.")
It is firmly established that the power to remove an official who performs executive functions is an executive, not a legislative, power. See Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52 (1926). Accordingly, the Supreme Court has struck down Acts of Congress in which Congress attempted to involve itself in the removal of executive officials. Bowsher v. Synar, 478 U.S. 714, 723, 726 (1986); Myers v.United States, supra. As the Supreme Court stated in Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654, 689-690 (1988):
Thus, by application of the separation of powers principles in the U.S. Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, and embodied in the Home Rule Act, the Council’s attempt to exercise a removal power over an executive branch official of the District government is ineffective. It cannot stand consistent with the tripartite government established by the Home Rule Act.
State supreme courts confronted with similar issues have reached the same result as to legislative efforts to remove public officials. For example, in Ahearn v. Bailey, 451 P.2d 30 (Ariz. 1969), the plaintiff was appointed to a three-member commission for a six-year term. About two years into the six-year term, the legislature shortened the term to three years and increased the number of members to five. The Governor re-appointed two of the three original members and appointed three new members to the newly constituted commission. The one original member who was not re-appointed by the Governor challenged the shortening of his term by the legislature as a violation of the separation of powers, and the Arizona Supreme Court agreed.
The court quoted from an early removal case decided by the United States Supreme Court that is often cited:
In striking down the attempt to shorten the term, the Ahearn court held that the power to remove is an executive function. The court noted that, although the legislature may prescribe the grounds or causes for removal, it may not "directly undertake to remove a public officer except as granted under the constitutional power of impeachment." Id. at 33. The court rejected the argument that the legislature’s power to abolish offices may be exercised at will. It ruled that this power may not be used as "a device to unseat the incumbent, thereby encroaching upon the authority of the executive."1
In Kelley v. Clark, 193 A. 634 (Pa. 1937), a state statute provided that the Civil Service Commission of the City of Philadelphia would consist of three Commissioners elected by the City Council for a four-year term. The state legislature subsequently enacted a statute that abolished this Commission and established a new Commission that would be composed of two members appointed by the Mayor, two members appointed by the City Controllers, and one member elected by these four members. It also provided that the act would become effective immediately. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled:
While the court acknowledged that an office created by the legislature exists by the will of the legislature and may be abolished at any time,
See also State ex rel.. Hammond v. Maxfield, 132 P.2d 660 (Utah. 1943)(legislature may not indirectly circumvent the governor’s power to remove).
An opinion of the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress reaches the same conclusion as to the Council’s effort to remove Mr. Maddox. A copy is attached as Exhibit D.
The Council’s IG Act must be deemed a nullity as a matter of law. It imposes no ministerial duty enforceable by mandamus. Its provision purporting to require the Mayor to submit a new nomination for IG within 30 days of the occurrence of a vacancy in the office, i.e., within 30 days of June 1, 2003, is equally futile and of no force and effect. There is no vacancy.
Mr. Maddox is entitled to continue to hold his office until the expiration of his term, unless removed by the Mayor in accordance with the standards and procedures prescribed by law. The petition should be dismissed.
Robert C. Utiger
Daniel A. Rezneck
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I hereby certify that a copy of the Opposition to Petition for Writ of Mandamus was delivered by facsimile on this 3rd day of June, 2003, to the following person at the following address:
I have also caused a copy thereof to be sent by first-class mail, postage prepaid, to Ms. Brookins-Hudson at the above address.
Daniel A. Rezneck
1. The court stated that the legislature may use its power to create or abolish an office when it serves legitimate reasons of economy or reorganization, such as when the legislature: (1) abolishes an office and no substitute is created; (2) abolishes two or more offices with substantially the same duties or different duties and combines the duties under one office for reasons of economy or genuine reorganization; or (3) abolishes an office and creates a new office that has substantially new, different, or additional functions, duties or powers so that it is an office different from the one abolished, even though it also includes the duties of the abolished office. Id. at 35. In other words, the legislature must be exercising its legitimate legislative powers, and not encroaching on the executive power of removal.
Back to top of page
Send mail with questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)