DC Court of Appeals: DC AG can’t prosecute FCA violations

by bvernia | August 25th, 2009

The DC Court of Appeals (the District’s highest court) ruled that only the United States Attorney, and not the Office of Attorney General (OAG), could prosecute criminal violations of the District’s False Claims Act.

The case involved a school employee whom District officials investigated for submitting reimbursement claims for personal expenses. When the US Attorney declined to prosecute Crawley, the OAG filed an information alleging 17 misdemeanor counts of violating the FCA, based on the District FCA’s provision, D.C. Code § 2-308.21, which authorized the OAG to prosecute such cases.

Crawley argued that this delegation was outside the D.C. Council’s authority, because it contradicted another statute, which vested in the OAG prosecution authority over only minor crimes. (In DC, the US Attorney typically prosecutes what would, in other districts, be state-law crimes.) After reviewing the convoluted history of federal/district jurisdiction, the DC Court of Appeals agreed with Crawley. It concluded that the Council’s authority to create new criminal offenses was limited by the Home Rule Act, which denied the Council legislative power over the US Attorney.

Frederick D. Cooke, Jr. represented Crawley. Sidney Bixler was the Assistant AG on the brief for the District. Roy McLeese III, an AUSA, filed a brief for the US Attorney.

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