Judicial Watch representing Clarice Feldman in her lawsuit against DC government

AT readers understand that Clarice Feldman is a force of nature, and now the authorities who run the District of Columbia may eventually be forced to agree.  Judicial Watch – an organization to which I proudly make regular donations – is acting as counsel representing Clarice in her lawsuit (Feldman v. Bowers) against the District's government.  

Judicial Watch explains:

[I]n a lawsuit against the Mayor and Chief Financial Officer of the District of Columbia[,] Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on behalf of Clarice Feldman, a longtime taxpayer and resident of the District of Columbia, to prevent the DC government from expending taxpayer money from a budget that was not appropriated by Congress and presented to the president for signing. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Clarice Feldman v. Muriel Bowser and Jeffrey S. DeWitt (No. 1:15-cv-01967)).

At issue is the DC government's attempt to dismiss a November 6, 2015, lawsuit. The U.S. House of Representatives filed an amicus curiae brief in March 2016 urging the court to deny the DC government's efforts. In its amicus in support of the Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss the House declared:

The Local Budget Act is a naked and unabashed effort to strip Congress of powers vested in it by Article I of the Constitution, and to circumvent the constitutionally-prescribed legislative process that the District and its supporters previously and repeatedly have acknowledged is the one constitutionally-appropriate way to proceed.

In other words, the Local Budget Act turns the Appropriations Clause upside down, and is inconsistent with Congress's plenary authority over all District appropriations. The only constitutionally permissible manner by which the District may achieve budget autonomy with respect to locally-derived funds is for Congress to convey that authority to the District by way of the normal legislative process – and Congress has not yet done that.

In Feldman's Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss, Judicial Watch takes strong issue with the District of Columbia's continued attempts to circumvent federal law, arguing:

Regardless of whether it is sound policy for the District of Columbia to have budget autonomy, [the defendants] cannot ignore the law. Yet, they do. Since October 1, 2015, Defendants have been illegally incurring obligations and expending local taxpayer funds pursuant to the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request Act of 2015 ("FY16 Budget Request") that have not been appropriated by Congress and presented to the President for signing. As a District taxpayer since 1979, Plaintiff challenges Defendants' lawlessness. 

Federal law requires that DC's annual budget be approved by a majority or two-thirds vote of the DC Council and have affirmative appropriation passed by both Houses of Congress and presented to the president for signing. In 2013, DC passed the Budget Autonomy Act of 2012, which "purportedly grants the District authority to incur obligations and expend local tax and fee revenue without an appropriation passed by both Houses of Congress and presented to the President for signing." In other words, DC has sought to remove appropriation authority from Congress and grant it to itself.

"This is quite simply a case of politicians gone wild. The DC government acts as if it can violate federal law and ignore the U.S. Constitution without repercussions," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "It is a federal crime to spend federal dollars without congressional authorization."

The first hearing in the lawsuit was Tuesday, and it lasted an hour and a half.

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