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Government and People
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
COUNCILMEMBER VINCENT B. ORANGE, SR., Plaintiff, v.
Civil Action No.
05-0008623 (J. Weisberg)
DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Pursuant to Super. Ct. Civ. Rules 12(b)(6) and 56, defendants Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp and Council Acting Secretary Ira Stohlman (“the defendants”) hereby move this Court to dismiss the complaint based on plaintiff’s failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted or, in the alternative, for summary judgment.
For the reasons set forth more fully in their Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, and the Statement of Undisputed Material Facts attached to this Motion, and the proposed Order, the Court should dismiss this complaint with prejudice.
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I hereby certify that I caused to be delivered, to the chambers of the Honorable Weisberg a copy of the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative for Summary Judgment, the Memorandum in Support thereof, attached exhibits (appropriately tabbed), proposed Orders, and Statement of Undisputed Material Facts.
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
COUNCILMEMBER VINCENT B. ORANGE, SR., Plaintiff, v.
Civil Action No.
05-0008623 (J. Weisberg)
MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Defendants Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp and Council Acting Secretary Ira Stohlman, by and through undersigned counsel, pursuant to Super. Ct. Civ. Rules 12(b)(6) and 56, move this Court to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, or, alternatively, for summary judgment. This memorandum of points and authorities is provided in support of the defendants’ dispositive motion.
The allegations in the complaint fail, as a matter of law, to state a claim. No additional factual developments can resuscitate them. Although the complaint states that the Chairman of the Council has violated the Home Rule Act1 and the rules of the Council, no specific section of the Home Rule Act or the rules of the Council is claimed to have been violated. The absence of a specific rule or law that has purportedly been violated is quite telling – and fatal. While the legal basis for the complaint is unknown, giving all favorable inferences to Plaintiff, there are several grounds for dismissal of the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The claims are nonjusticiable because they implicate the separation of powers principles by asking the court to substitute its judgement for that of the Chairman and Members of the Council as to the scope of the jurisdiction of Council committees, as defined in the rules of the Council. Further, the complaint is subject to dismissal because the Chairman’s exercise of her parliamentarian duties were a reasonable exercise of her powers as the presiding officer of the Council. The claims also should be dismissed because there is an adequate legislative remedy available to Plaintiff to resolve the questions posed by the complaint.2
Plaintiff, Vincent B. Orange, Sr., brings this action for declaratory and injunctive relief in his official capacity as the Ward 5 member of the Council of the District of Columbia and Chairman of the Council Committee on Government Operations. Complaint ¶ 2 at 2. The complaint seeks a judicial declaration as to the scope of the jurisdiction of the Council Committee on Government Operations and injunctive relief to “compel the Council’s Chair and Acting Secretary to comply with the law and with Council Rules.”3 Complaint at 3. Although the complaint asserts that Plaintiff has standing to bring this action, notably missing from the complaint is any allegation of a specific injury as a result of the actions of the defendants.
While the complaint alleges that Chairman Cropp’s actions violated an unspecified section of the Home Rule Act, there is nothing in the Home Rule Act that authorizes Council committees, hearings, roundtables or any other internal procedure of the Council other than designating the Chairman as the presiding officer. All the procedural requirements are contained in the rules adopted by the Council. The Home Rule Act, however, does authorize the Council to adopt procedural rules which, presumably, could include provisions for creating committees and hearing procedures. HRA § 404(c); D.C. Official Code § 1-204.04(c). Thus, because the actions complained of, even if true, are not expressly covered by any provision of the Home Rule Act, the complaint is simply about violations of Council procedural rules on committee assignments and procedures for conducting hearings and roundtables.
Although section 411 of the Home Rule Act designates the Chairman of the Council as its presiding officer and the Councilmembers unanimously adopted the Council Rules for Council Period 16, including Rules 211 and 1001,4 which designate the Chairman as the Council’s chief executive officer and parliamentarian, Plaintiff, nevertheless, argues that Chairman Cropp “lacks the legal authority under both the [Home Rule] Act and the Rules for Council Period 16,” to determine the propriety of his conducting a public roundtable on the financing of baseball as the Chairman of the Government Operations Committee. Id.
Factual and Procedural Background
The facts in this case are simple and straight-forward. Councilmember Orange submitted a request to hold a roundtable on October 31, 2005 at 9:00 a.m. on “The Role of the Mayor, City Administrator and the Office of Property Management in Washington Nationals Ownership Determination, Ballpark Financing, and Ballpark Land Acquisition.” Chairman Cropp advised Plaintiff that matters pertaining to the proposed ballpark stadium were within the scope of the Council Committees on Finance and Revenue and Economic Development and that it would be improper for him as Chairperson of the Government Operations Committee to have an official public roundtable on the financing for the proposed ballpark stadium. Consistent with the determination made by Chairman Cropp, on October 14th, pursuant to Council Rules 501(c)5 and 421,6 Plaintiff submitted a revised notice to the Council Office of the Secretary. The revised notice stated that the Committee on Government Operations would hold a roundtable on October 31, 2005 at 9:00 a.m. on “The Role of the Mayor, City Administrator & the Office of Property Management.” See Exhibit 1. The notice of the roundtable stated that the purpose of the roundtable was to “receive formal testimonies from the Mayor, City Administrator and the Director of the Office of Property Management, concerning their statutorily assigned duties and responsibilities.” Id. Pursuant to Council Rule 421, the revised notice was circulated to Members of the Council by Defendant Stohlman, Acting Secretary to the Council.
On October 18, 2005, pursuant to Council Rule 231 and Council Committee of the Whole Rules 301 and 403, the Council Committee of the Whole (“COW”) met to consider matters referred to that committee and to agendize measures that had been reported out of other committees. As required by the rules of the Committee of the Whole, the agenda listed hearings to be held by Council committees. Although Plaintiff had submitted a revised notice to the Secretary relating to the October 31st roundtable, omitting any reference to the ballpark financing, the COW agenda inadvertently reflected the initial description of the roundtable which referenced the financing of the proposed ballpark stadium.
Subsequently, Plaintiff sent a letter to the Mayor, City Administrator, and Director of the Office of Property Management inviting them to attend a roundtable on October 31st to consider, among other matters, the financing of the new ballpark. See Exhibit 2. To clarify the committee jurisdiction to hold an official roundtable on the financing for the proposed ballpark stadium, Chairman Cropp, by letter dated October 25, 2005, again informed Plaintiff that the committees with jurisdiction to hold hearings on the financing of the new ballpark are the Committees on Economic Development and Finance and Revenue, not the Government Operations Committee. See Exhibit 3. The Chairman advised Plaintiff that he would have an opportunity to raise any questions he had about the financing of baseball in the appropriate Committee or Council forum. Id.
On the same day that he received the letter of the Chairman, Councilmember Orange, in a letter to Chairman Cropp, stated his position that the committee he chaired, the Government Operations Committee, had jurisdiction to hold a hearing to ask the Mayor and City Administrator questions on matters pertaining to the financing of the proposed ballpark stadium. See Exhibit 4. The Chairman Cropp responded, in a letter dated October 26, 2005, repeating her earlier ruling that a hearing on the financing of the proposed ballpark stadium was outside the scope of the jurisdiction of the Government Operations Committee. In addition, she advised Plaintiff that because the October 31st public meeting did not meet the requirements of Council Rule 501(b) and (c) to be an official roundtable, Council central staff could not be utilized to record the public meeting. See Exhibit 5.
On the same day that he received the letter from Chairman Cropp advising that the roundtable would not be deemed an official hearing, Councilmember Orange wrote another letter to Chairman Cropp stating that the Chairman had misinterpreted the rules of the Council to prevent him from asking questions of the Mayor and the City Administrator about baseball. See Exhibit 6.
Chairman Cropp, by letter dated October 27, 2005, wrote a final letter to Councilmember Orange on the subject of the October 31st roundtable reaffirming her earlier rulings about the inappropriateness of the Committee on Government Operations having a roundtable on the financial of the proposed ballpark stadium. See Exhibit 7.
Councilmember Orange, by letter dated October 28, 2005, issued his final letter to Chairman Cropp, prior to filing this lawsuit, on the propriety of his scheduling a roundtable on the financing of the proposed ballpark stadium. He reaffirmed his earlier position that he had a hearing “properly scheduled for Monday, October 31, 2005” and that the rules of the Council “provide the authority for the Committee on Government Operations to hold its roundtable on Monday, October 31, 2005 at 9:00 a.m.” See Exhibit 8.
Rather than appeal the ruling of the Chairman, as allowed by Council Rule 335, on October 31st, Plaintiff, in defiance of Chairman Cropp’s ruling, held a public meeting on the ballpark financing in the Council Chambers. The amplification and recording devices were not activated. Later that day Plaintiff filed the instant complaint seeking a declaration that “Defendant Cropp lacks the legal authority under both the Act and the Rules for Council Period 16, to deny Plaintiff the ability to conduct a public oversight roundtable involving the Office of the Mayor, Office of the City Administrator and the Office of Property Management in his role as chairman of the Committee on Government Operations.” Complaint ¶ 10, at 4.
While the facts set forth above are helpful to understand the context of this matter, there are no material facts at issue which may impede a decision on the straight-forward legal question in dispute.7 Even Plaintiff concedes that this is a matter that “is purely legal in nature.” Complaint ¶ 11, at 5. The only legal question for this court to decide is whether, in the absence of an allegation of a violation of a specific statutory provision, an assertion of a failure of the Council Chairman to follow procedural rules of the Council in the internal arrangements for a roundtable states a claim for which relief can be granted by this court.
The Charter and Administrative Powers of the Council
The District of Columbia Charter establishes a government which vests executive, legislative and judicial powers in three separate branches of the government. Wilson v. Kelly, 615 A.2d 229 (D.C. 1992). Under section 404(a) of the Charter, the legislative power of the District is vested in the Council. D.C. Official Code §1-204.04(a). Judicial power is vested in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and the Superior Court of the District of Columbia pursuant to HRA § 431(a). D.C. Official Code §1-204.31. The authority to execute and administer the laws is vested in the Mayor. See HRA § 422; D.C. Official Code §1-204.22.
The Council has statutorily recognized the principles of separation of powers. It adopted the Council of the District of Columbia Independence Act of 1982, effective July 24, 1982 (D.C. Law 4-127; D.C. Official Code § 1-201.44).8 According to the Committee Report on Bill 4-240, the District of Columbia Independence Act of 1982, the purpose of the bill was “to establish the Council of the District of Columbia as an operationally autonomous branch of the District of Columbia government.” Report of the Committee of the Whole on Bill 4-420, the Council of the District of Columbia Independence Act of 1982 (Council of the District of Columbia, March 2, 1982 at 1).
Under section 411 of the District Charter, the Chairman is “the presiding officer of the Council.” D.C. Official Code §1-204.11(a). The Charter requires the Council to adopt rules of procedure. HRA §404(c); D.C. Official Code §1-204.04(c).9 Pursuant to HRA §404(c), at the beginning of every Council Period, the Council adopts rules of procedure that govern the manner in which legislation is introduced, referred to committee, hearings and roundtables are conducted, how legislation is marked up by committees, and the manner in which legislation is voted on by the full Council. The rules have waiver provisions so that the rules do not stand in the way of accomplishing Council policy objectives. See Council Rule 1003.10
On January 3, 2005, which began Council Period 16, the Council unanimously adopted the Rules for the Council of the District of Columbia for Council Period 16 Resolution of 2005, effective January 3, 2005 (Res. 16-1; D.C. Official Code §1-204.04, note). Among other things, the rules adopted by the Members of the Council designate the Chairman as the chief executive officer and parliamentarian for the Council. See Council Rules 211 and 1001, respectively; D.C. Official Code §1-204.04, note.11 Council Rules 231-240 provide a description of the subject matter jurisdiction of the 10 standing Council committees and a list of the agencies over which the committees have oversight.12 Council Rules 233, 235, and 236 describe the jurisdiction of the Council Committee on Economic Development, Committee on Finance and Revenue, and the Committee on Government Operations, respectively. See Appendix A (Statutory and Rules Appendix). Pursuant to Council Rule 405, upon the introduction of legislation, the Chairman assigns matters to committees based on germaneness as outlined in Council Rules 231-240.
The councilmembers, through the adoption of Rules 211 and 1001 have given the Chairman of the Council great latitude in interpreting the Council rules. That power is not without limit. When a member has an objection to a ruling or committee assignment by the Chairman, Council Rule 335 allows them to appeal the ruling of the Chairman through a vote of the members. Council Rule 335 states:
Title V of the Council rules contains the procedures for having hearings and roundtables. Council Rule 501(b) and (c), in relevant part, limits committee hearings and roundtables to matters that are “properly within the committee’s jurisdiction.”13 As stated earlier, as the presiding officer and parliamentarian, it is the Council Chairman who, without objections, determines whether a matter is properly within a committee’s jurisdiction. Where there is an objection raised under Council Rule 335, it takes the a vote of half the Members of the Council to sustain the ruling of the Chairman.
The Chairman has consistently referred matters pertaining to the proposed ballpark stadium to the Committee on Economic Development, Committee on Finance and Revenue, or both. For example, Bill 15-1028, “the Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004,” which dealt with the financing of the proposed ballpark stadium, was sequentially referred by the Chairman to the Committee on Economic Development and the Committee on Finance and Revenue, respectively. In addition, Bill 15-270, the “Ballpark Revenue Amendment Act of 2003" was referred to the Committee on Finance and Revenue; Bill 15-282, the “Ballpark Revenue Act of 2003,” was referred to the Committee on Finance and Revenue; Bill 15-1028, the “Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004,” was referred to the Committee on Finance and Revenue; Bill 16-0259, the “Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Amendment Act of 2005,” was referred to the Committee on Finance and Revenue; and Bill 16-503, the “Excess Ballpark Fee Collection Amendment Act of 2005,” was referred to the Committee on Finance and Revenue. Although no ballpark related legislation has been referred to Plaintiff’s Committee on Government Operations, he has never objected to any of these referrals.
The complaint should be dismissed because the claims raise nonjusticiable issues that implicate separation of powers principles and there is already an adequate legislative remedy available to Plaintiff to resolve these claims.
A. Summary of the Arguments
Plaintiff’s complaint cannot withstand summary judgment. This Court should deny the requested relief because plaintiff’s claims are substantively without merit and the requested relief would require the court to substitute its judgment for that of members of the legislative branch in the interpretation of the internal rules of the Council of the District of Columbia. A judicial declaration as to “the extent of his committee’s legislative oversight” and a declaration that Chairman Cropp’s determination that he could not hold an official public roundtable on October 31, 2005 at 9 a.m. to “take testimony on the role of the Mayor, City Administrator and the Office of Property Management in Washington, Nationals Ownership Determination, Ballpark Financing and Ballpark Land Acquisition,” are matters committed exclusively to the jurisdiction of the legislative branch and thus are nonjusticiable because the rights asserted could be vindicated by his fellow legislators.
Plaintiff’s challenge is to a purely internal matter of the Council of the District of Columbia, the legislative branch of government. Contrary to the assertions made, Chairman Cropp has, at all times, acted within her role as the presiding officer and the parliamentarian of the Council and in accordance with the rules adopted by the Council, which were voted on by Councilmember Orange. To the extent Councilmember Orange disagreed with the ruling of the Chairman, he could have challenged it before the full Council under Rule 335, but he chose not to do so. Instead, he brought this internal procedural matter to the judicial branch for a resolution. He is asking the court to do, what the Council itself has the power to do -- determine the extent of the jurisdiction of Council committees. Because this is a matter that is clearly reserved to the legislative branch of government, the complaint raises a political question implicating the separation of powers principles and thus is not a proper subject of the judiciary. The complaint does not point to any specific law or rule that prohibits what the Chairman has done. Nor can it because none exists.14
B. The Standard of Review for Rule 12(b)(6) and Rule 56 Consideration.
The standard of review of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted requires a court to accept as true all material allegations of a complaint and to construe the complaint in favor of the complaining party. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); McBryde v. Amoco Oil Co., 404 A.2d 200, 202 (D.C. 1979); Fraser v. Gottfried, 636 A.2d 430 (D.C. 1994). In this case, however, after construing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the complaint must be dismissed because it does not allege a recognizable claim for relief.
C. The claims are nonjusticiable because they implicate the separation of powers principles by asking the court to substitute its judgment for that of the Chairman and Members of the Council as to the scope of the jurisdiction of Council committees, as defined in the rules of the Council.
Plaintiff’s allegations, even when taken as true as they must for the purposes of this motion, fail, as a matter of law, to state a recognizable claim because they are essentially an attack on the manner in which the Chairman of the Council, as the parliamentarian and chief executive officer of the Council, interprets Council rules and administers Council resources for official and unofficial proceedings of the Council. This type of claim falls squarely within the ambit of the separation of powers doctrine for which courts have dismissed claims as nonjusticiable because the rights asserted could be vindicated by his fellow legislators.
The separation of powers doctrine provides that no branch of government should exercise the functions exclusively committed to another branch. (Citation omitted). The administrative internal operations of the Council is committed exclusively to the Council through its presiding officer, the Chairman. In cases where legislators are plaintiffs and legislative rules or procedures form the basis for a claim, courts have found the matters to be nonjusticiable or abstained from considering them where there is an an adequate remedy in the legislative branch. While there are no local cases directly on point, there are cases in the D.C. Circuit, state courts, and the Virgin Island which have addressed this issue.
In Metzenbaum v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 219 U.S. App. D.C. 57, 675 F.2d 1282, 1287 (1982), the court dismissed the claim as nonjusticiable where the legislator asserted only that the House’s own operating rules had been violated because “to resolve this issue would require us not only to construe the rules of the House of Representatives but additionally to impose upon the House our interpretation of it rules.”15 In Riegle v. Federal Open Market Committee, 211 U.S. App. D.C. 284, 656 F.2d 873, cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1082 (1981), a senator challenged the constitutionality of certain procedures established by the Federal Reserve Act. The court ultimately dismissed the suit because the senator's fellow legislators were "capable of affording him substantial relief." 656 F.2d at 882. Accord; Exxon Corp. v. Federal Trade Comm'n, 589 F.2d 582, 590 (D.C. Cir. 1978) ("Although the courts will intervene to protect constitutional rights from infringement by Congress, including its committees and members . . . where constitutional rights are not violated, there is no warrant for the judiciary to interfere with the internal procedures of Congress. . . . " (citations omitted)), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 943 (1979); Harrington v. Bush, 553 F.2d 190, 214 (D.C. Cir. 1977) ("In deference to the fundamental constitutional principle of separation of powers, the judiciary must take special care to avoid intruding into a constitutionally delineated prerogative of the Legislative Branch."); Consumers Union of United States v. Periodical Correspondents Ass'n, 515 F.2d 1341, 1351 (D.C. Cir. 1975) ("[This case is] not justiciable by reason of the textually demonstrable commitment of such rules to the legislative branch of government. . . . "), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 1051 (1976). In Vander Jagt v. O'Neill, 226 U.S. App. D.C. 14, 699 F.2d 1166, 1176-77 (1982), the D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit by Republican House members against Democratic members challenging assignment of committee positions, concluding that it should not adjudicate the controversy and would “withhold relief where prudential and separation-of-powers concerns” counseled the court not to exercise its judicial power. The court made it clear that “If Congress should adopt internal procedures which ignore constitutional restraints or violate fundamental rights, it is clear that the courts must provide remedial action” . . . but that it would be a "startlingly unattractive" idea, “given our respect for a coequal branch of government, for us "to tell the Speaker of the . . . House of Representatives how many Democrats, and perhaps even which Democrats, he is to appoint to the standing committees, and perhaps to each such committee." 549 F.2d at 123. See also Brown v. Hansen, 973 F.2d 1118 (3rd Cir. 1992) (Court affirmed dismissal of complaint where two members of the Virgin Island Legislature alleged that the rules of the legislature were violated when a member attempted to amend the rules of the legislature by a simple, rather than a super-majority vote, as required by the rules. Although it was clear that the rules were violated, because there was no violation of an “external source of law” [charter or the United States Constitution], the dismissal of the case for being nonjusticiable was deemed proper where the sole question was “whether the legislature violated its own internal rules.”).
Similarly, in Davids v. Akers, 549 F.2d 120 (9th Cir. 1977), plaintiff legislators challenged the constitutionality of committee appointments made by defendant house speaker that did not reflect the percentage of Democrat legislators in the house of representatives. The court affirmed a grant of summary judgment, refusing to intervene in the internal procedures of a state house where no federal constitutional violations had been shown, stating: "[w]e are not in a position . . . to make a better judgment about how the Arizona House of Representatives should go about its business than that House can make. Even if the court could, it ought not to." Id. at 125. In Gregg v. Barrett, 248 U.S. App. D.C. 347, 771 F.2d 539 (1985), a lawsuit was brought by three members of Congress against the printer and supervising members of the Congressional Record, alleging that the Congressional Record was not a faithful transcript of what actually was said on the floor of the House and of the Senate. They alleged a first amendment violation. The court found that Congress had determined and redetermined what kind of record should be kept of congressional proceedings, and that notwithstanding the deference and esteem that was properly tendered to individual congressional actors, the court's deference and esteem for the institution as a whole and for the constitutional command that the institution be allowed to manage its own affairs prevented the court from even attempting a diagnosis of the problem.
Research has not revealed any case or other authority in which a legislator successfully invoked the jurisdiction of the courts for a dispute involving internal legislative rules or procedures that have not involved an allegation of a statutory or constitutional violation. The law is settled that absent a statutory or charter violation, the judiciary should not become involved in the review of matters which are purely procedural rules of the legislature, as here. A ruling of the Council Chairman as to the propriety of having an official roundtable on any matter is within the purview of the Council exclusively.
The rationales and conclusions in the above cited cases are equally applicable here. It is not the role of the court to act as an appellate forum to contest rulings of the Chairman of the Council. Instead, Council Rule 335 contains a procedure for Members of the Council to challenge any rulings of the Chairman. At no time has Plaintiff availed himself of this remedy. Moreover, because the relief sought by Plaintiff is available from his Council colleagues, by appealing the ruling of the Chairman, this court should dismiss this matter for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted.
D. The court should defer to the ruling of the Chairman because the exercise of her parliamentarian duties were a reasonable exercise of her powers as the presiding officer of the Council.
When, as here, the issue involves the interpretation of a legislative rule of procedure to be followed by the legislative body, great deference is due the ruling of the legislative body. The District Charter and Council rule provide that the Chairman is the presiding officer of the Council. See, HRA §411 and Council Rule 211. As the presiding officer the Chairman has authority to decide the correctness of the application of Council rules and to interpret the application of laws to Council procedures. With respect to Council Rule 501's requirement that a roundtable be held on a matter “properly within the committee’s jurisdiction” the Council, through the Chairman, is the entity charged with the responsibility for interpreting and implementing that rule.
Since the Council, through the Chairman, is responsible for interpreting and applying Council Rule 501, Chairman Cropp’s interpretation should be given greater weight than that of anyone else. See Chevron USA Inc. v Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 842 (1984) (where a statute is "silent or ambiguous with respect to the specific issue," the reviewing court must defer to the agency's construction of the statute so long as it is reasonable) and Sutherland Statutory Construction § 49.05 at 17 & note 17 (5th Ed.) (Great weight is given to an agency's interpretation "except those that are inconsistent with the statutory mandate or that frustrate the policy that Congress sought to implement."). This is especially true where, as in this case, the interpretation that the Council rules commit legislation and hearings on the financing of the proposed ballpark stadium to committees other than the one chaired by Plaintiff is a long standing one.
The Chairman has consistently interpreted the rules to refer ballpark matters to the Council Committees on Finance and Revenue and Economic Development. Chairman Cropp ruled that Plaintiff could not have an official roundtable or hearing on the financing of the proposed ballpark stadium. Her interpretation should be given great deference under the well established principal of statutory interpretation that "[w]hen two equally reasonable interpretations of the statute in question are available the reviewing court must defer to the interpretative choice of the agency" charged with administering the statute in question. Id. at 18
This is an issue of first impression that has not been presented to a local court and therefore there is no dispositive local legal authority on this issue. However, this Court has often given great deference to the Council and to the Chairman of the Council, as its presiding officer, when presented with statutory challenges to the validity of the actions of the Council. See United States v. Alston, 580 A.2d 587, 597 (D.C. 1990), citing to AFGE v. Barry, 459 A.2d 1045, 1050 note 9 (D.C. 1983) (where challenge was made as to whether an emergency act adopted by the Council was an “emergency” within the meaning of section 412 of the District Charter, the court deferred to the Council’s interpretation). In Drudi v. D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, C.A. No. 4716-00 (D.C. Super. Ct., Mem. Op. July 17, 2000) the Superior Court analyzed whether the Council’s adoption of the legislation was read twice in substantially the same form as required by section 412(a) of the District Charter. See Exhibit 9. The Superior Court, after giving great deference to the ruling of Chairman Cropp that the measure had been read twice in substantially the same form, found that the Council had acted properly. That same deference should be applied here where a Council procedural rule, not a statute, is involved. As the court stated in Drudi:
Id. at 11–12 (citations omitted).
Similarly, this Court should give considerable deference to the ruling of Chairman Cropp as the presiding officer of the Council who has extensive experience making this type of judgment call in the fast-moving atmosphere of the Council, where multiple requests for hearings and roundtables, as well as requests for the use of Council resources and central staff are made. In these circumstances, the Council must be allowed to address this type of issue internally. Otherwise, the court would be in a position of substituting its interpretation of the Council rules for that of the Chairman or, upon an appeal under Council Rule 335, the Members of the Council, which would be a classic example of a violation of separation of powers principles and potentially lead to a submission of more requests for the court to resolve disputes over the interpretation and application of internal procedural rules of the Council.
For the foregoing reasons, the defendants move to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, because the complaint seeks relief in an area that is the province of the legislature, not the judiciary and Plaintiff has an adequate remedy available remedy from his Council colleagues.
1. Prior to 1997, this Act was known as the District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act. In section 11717 of District of Columbia National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997, approved August 5, 1997 (Pub. L. No. 105-33; 111 Stat. 712), Congress directed that all reference to the Self-Government Act “. . . shall be deemed to be a reference to the District of Columbia Home Rule Act.” Title IV of the Home Rule Act (“HRA”) is the District Charter. Where references are made to Title IV of the Home Rule Act, they will be referred to as the District Charter.
2. While the complaint seeks injunctive relief, it is clear that injunctive relief is not warranted since Plaintiff has an adequate remedy available to him.
3. While the Acting Secretary to the Council, Ira Stohlman, is named as a defendant, the complaint does not contain any allegations with respect to his conduct.
4. 211. Chairman
6. 421. Notice to Members
7. The Defendants do not admit the allegations of the Complaint, except for the purposes of this motion.
8. § 1-301.44. Independence established and recognized.
9. § 1-204.04. Powers of the Council.
10. 1003. Suspension of Rules.
11. See Note 4.
12. The number of Council standing committees and the oversight jurisdiction of standing committees varies each Council Period.
13. 501. Authority to Call Hearings.
14. Moreover, there is no claim because Plaintiff had his public briefing on October 31st in the main Council chambers. Even though there was no recording of the meeting, witnesses were present and presented testimony. There is no statute or rule that requires that unofficial hearings be recorded or covered by the central staff of the Council.
15. The court in Metzenbaum v. FERC, 219 U.S. App. D.C. 57, 675 F.2d 1282, 1287 (1982), held nonjusticiable a challenge by legislators asserting only that the House's own operating rules had been violated. Not only were no constitutional claims at issue, but in addition the court noted that "judicial intervention may be appropriate where rights of persons other than members of Congress are jeopardized by failure to follow its own procedure." That court held that:
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