New D.C. Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb has committed to ensuring District residents’ rights are respected under the law and that he will carry out his duties in concert with other city officials when appropriate.
“Our city is very diverse,” said Schwalb during an interview with The Informer on Jan. 5. “Our city’s strength lies in its diversity. We will stand up for the rights of people who are perceived to be different. We will fight those who try to take advantage of people who are not as strong.”
Schwalb, 56, had no opposition in his quest to become the District’s second elected attorney general in the November 2022 general election. He had the support of Karl A. Racine, who served as the city’s first elected attorney general from 2015-2023. Schwalb is a District native and received his bachelor’s degree from Duke University and his juris doctorate from the Harvard University School of Law. Before running for attorney general, he worked as the partner-in-charge at the law firm of Venable LLP’s District office.
Confronting tough issues
Schwalb said he will not hesitate to take on controversial issues if the rights of District residents and those who are in the city for various reasons are threatened. He said the immigrant crisis where the governors of Texas, Arizona and Florida are sending busloads of people to the District—lately Vice President Kamala Harris’s residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory—is shameful and his office will work to make sure that their rights are respected.
“It’s a sad tragedy that vulnerable people are being used in a political game,” he said. “As a city we try to help them as much as possible. Immigration policy is driven at the federal level. Nevertheless, people who are immigrants must know that our laws protect them. Our laws protect them when they face problems dealing with housing. Our laws protect them when they face unfair wage issues.”
Schwalb said he will strongly defend the city’s environmental regulation laws.
“My goal for environmental justice is to focus on improving people’s lives,” he said. “We will be working on local issues such as prosecuting those [who] participate in illegal dumping as a measure of ensuring people’s life and safety. I will also creatively and aggressively enforce laws dealing with climate change, both locally and globally.”
The Office of the Attorney General has the obligation to serve as the prosecutor of juvenile offenders. During the interview, Schwalb repeated a statement on juvenile justice that he often said during the campaign.
“I want to work myself out of a job,” he said, regarding prosecuting juveniles.
Schwalb said getting young people on the right path and away from a life of crime will be his focus, not incarcerating them.
“We want to lift up our youth,” he said. “We want to get them back on track. There is science proving that kids’ brains don’t fully develop until their mid-20s.”
He said, “it is my job to prosecute the law and I will do that.”
Aiding juvenile offenders will help them develop into productive citizens and keep our neighborhoods safe, he said.
Working with city officials and residents
During his tenure as attorney general, Racine sometimes clashed publicly with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Schwalb said it is his job to work with other local officials professionally in the best interests of District residents.
“I will work with the mayor,” he said. “District residents deserve a government that works. I will be an independent attorney general and there will be times when we will not agree with the mayor. Bickering is not well-served. We can disagree without being disagreeable.”
Schwalb said he will work cooperatively with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which serves as the prosecutor for adult crimes in the city. The U.S. Attorney for the District stands as the only office of its type prosecuting local offenders.
The new AG explained he hopes to have residents elect their local prosecutor, like other jurisdictions.
Schwalb said he will consistently attend community meetings along with his team members.
“I am 100% committed to listening,” he said. “That is why people have two ears and one mouth. I think residents should know me and know what I do. I will not be a 9 to 5 attorney general.”