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Mayer Brown Wins Case Supporting District of Columbia Budget Rights

24 June 2015
Mayer Brown Article
Mayer Brown litigators won a pro bono victory for the District of Columbia Council in a case concerning the validity of an amendment to the District’s charter.

The Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit vacated an injunction that prohibited the DC Council from passing its own budget for the expenditure of local funds, a responsibility that previously belonged exclusively to Congress, but that was transferred to the DC Council by the Local Budget Autonomy Act of 2012.

The dispute arose in when the then-Mayor of Washington DC joined with the District’s chief financial officer in refusing to approve a budget passed by the DC Council on the grounds that it violated federal law. The federal district court agreed and invalidated the Budget Autonomy Act.

Representing the DC Council before the Court of Appeals, Mayer Brown partner Brian Netter and associates Tom Wolf and Breanne Gilpatrick asserted that the federal district court had lacked jurisdiction to rule on the matter and that, in any event, the court erred by invalidating the Act. After the case was argued, Muriel Bowser was elected Mayor of Washington DC. After reviewing the legal arguments, she sided with the Council and argued that her adoption of the Council’s arguments meant that the injunction prohibiting enforcement of the new law should be vacated. The Court of Appeals granted the motion and vacated the injunction, and the District proceeded to pass its first budget under the new system.

According to Brian, who argued the case, “Washington’s 2016 budget is a milestone for local autonomy. Although the battle for local control of local funds is not yet over, we are closer now to righting this historical wrong than we have been in decades.”

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