Judicial Watch Represents D.C. Taxpayer Seeking To Prevent D.C. Government from Illegally Spending Taxpayer Money
Files Motion to Intervene in Federal Appellate Court after D.C. Mayor Decides Not to Defend Federal District Court Ruling
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced that it has filed a Motion to Intervene on behalf of Clarice Feldman, a longtime taxpayer and resident of the District of Columbia. The legal action seeks to ensure that no taxpayer money is spent by local D.C. politicians on a budget measure already found to be unlawful by a federal court. The case is in Council of the District of Columbia v. Muriel Bowser, et al. (No. 14-7067), which is currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (D.C. Circuit).
In an effort to spend tax dollars without an appropriation from Congress (as required by the federal Home Rule Act), the Local Budget Autonomy Act of 2012 (Budget Autonomy Act) was signed by then-Mayor Gray and ratified by D.C. voters in April 2013. Upon reflection and on the advice of the then-D.C. attorney general, Mayor Gray and then-Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt subsequently withdrew their support of the law and notified the City Council that they would not enforce it. City Council filed suit and sought to have the mayor compelled to enforce the law. In 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan found the Budget Autonomy Act to be unlawful and permanently enjoined all parties from enforcing the law.
Regarding the District Court’s decision, the Judicial Watch filing states:
As the District Court concluded, “the Budget Autonomy Act is unlawful” and “Mayor Vincent C. Gray, CFO Jeffrey S. DeWitt, the Council of the District of Columbia, its officers, agents, servants, employees, and all persons in active concert or participation with them who receive actual notice of the injunction, are hereby permanently ENJOINED from enforcing the [law] pending further order of this Court ….” Until this Court rules otherwise, all money spent to enforce the Budget Autonomy Act will be done so unlawfully. All money appropriated under the Budget Autonomy Act will also be done so unlawfully.
The Council immediately appealed the District Court’s ruling to the D.C. Circuit.
Current Mayor Muriel E. Bowser voted for the budget law when she was a member of the D.C. Council and supported the filing of a lawsuit seeking its enforcement. Now that she has been elected mayor, she agrees with the City Council, does not want to defend the District Court’s ruling, and seeks to avoid the injunction, preventing the unlawful expenditure of taxpayer money. On March 23, 2015, Mayor Bowser filed a motion to dismiss the appeal as well as a request for the appellate court to vacate the District Court’s ruling.
Judicial Watch summarized the mayor’s effort:
Simply put, Mayor Bowser disagrees with Mayor Gray and the District Court about the legality of the Budget Autonomy Act. The only way for Mayor Bowser to avoid the District Court’s injunction is for this Court to vacate the lower court’s ruling. She therefore asks the Court to do so.
In representing Feldman, Judicial Watch asks the court to recognize her interest in preventing the unlawful expenditure of taxpayer money, and argues that the D.C. government is no longer adequately representing its taxpayers:
Feldman has been a taxpayer and resident of the District since 1969. As a taxpayer, she has an indisputable interest in preventing the unlawful expenditure of taxpayer money. Until this Court rules otherwise, all money spent to enforce the Budget Autonomy Act will be done so unlawfully. All money appropriated under the Budget Autonomy Act will also be done so unlawfully. Therefore, Feldman seeks to defend the District Court’s injunction prohibiting the District from enforcing the Budget Autonomy Act and, thereby, from expending taxpayer money unlawfully.
The underlying ruling by Judge Sullivan makes it clear that the D.C. Council – and, now, Mayor Bowser – is alleging an authority to change law that they plainly does not have:
Despite [a] long history of seeking budget autonomy through Congress, the Council now argues that since the Home Rule Act was enacted in 1973, it has possessed the authority to grant itself control over its own local spending. This argument, which the Council advances for the first time in this litigation, simply cannot withstand judicial scrutiny. As more fully set forth below, it is contrary to the plain language of the Home Rule Act, which prohibits the Council from changing the role of the federal government in the appropriation of the total budget of the District. It cannot be reconciled with the legislative history of the Home Rule Act, during which Congress explicitly considered, and rejected, budget autonomy for the District. And it violates a separate federal statute, the Anti- Deficiency Act, which prohibits District employees from spending public money unless it has been appropriated by Congress.
Violations of the Anti-Deficiency Act can carry criminal and civil penalties.
“Mayor Bowser and the D.C. Council are attempting a power grab to spend tax dollars without authority under law,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Our taxpayer client seeks to make sure no tax dollars are spent in violation of the well-established law that the Congress must appropriate the District of Columbia’s budget. D.C. taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for the corrupt political games of its Mayor and its D.C. Council.”