Code of the District of Columbia

§ 34–804. People’s Counsel — Appointment, compensation, qualifications; personnel; duties.

*NOTE: This section includes amendments by emergency legislation that will expire on March 20, 2024. To view the text of this section after the expiration of all emergency and temporary legislation, click this link: Permanent Version.*

(a) There is hereby established within the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia, established by § 34-801, an office to be known as the “Office of the People’s Counsel.” The Office shall be a party, as of right, in any investigation, valuation, revaluation, or proceeding of any nature by the Public Service Commission of or concerning any public utility operating in the District of Columbia.

(b) There shall be at the head of such Office the People’s Counsel who shall be appointed by the Mayor of the District of Columbia, by and with the advice and consent of the Council of the District of Columbia, and who shall serve for a term of 4 years. The People’s Counsel shall be entitled to receive compensation at the maximum rate for Level II of the Senior Executive Attorney Service, pursuant to §§ 1-608.53 and 1-608.58. No person shall be appointed to the position of People’s Counsel unless that person is admitted to practice before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Before entering upon the duties of such office, the People’s Counsel shall take and subscribe the same oaths as that required by the commissioners of the Commission, including an oath or affirmation before the Clerk of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia that he is not pecuniarily interested, voluntarily or involuntarily, directly or indirectly, in any public utility in the District of Columbia. The People’s Counsel shall be a District resident throughout his or her term and failure to maintain District residency shall result in a forfeiture of the position.

(b-1) Notwithstanding subsection (b) of this section and § 1-523.01(c), a person appointed to the People's Counsel may serve in a holdover capacity after the expiration of his or her term until his or her successor takes office.

(c) The People’s Counsel is authorized to employ or to retain and fix the compensation of employees or independent contractors, including attorneys, necessary to perform the functions vested in the People’s Counsel by this section, § 34-2202.05a, and § 34-912 and prescribe their authority and duties.

(c-1)(1)(A) Notwithstanding the provisions of Unit A of Chapter 14 of Title 2, the People's Counsel shall use a ranking system based on a scale of 100 points for all employment decisions for positions within the Office of the People's Counsel.

(B) An individual who is a District resident at the time of application shall be awarded a 10-point hiring preference over a nonresident applicant; provided, that the individual claims the preference. This 10-point preference shall be in addition to any points awarded on the 100-point scale.

(C) At the time of appointment, an individual who claimed the 10-point residency preference shall agree, in writing, to maintain District residency for a period of 7 consecutive years from the effective date of appointment into the position for which the individual claimed the residency preference.

(D) An individual who claimed the residency preference and who fails to maintain District residency for 7 consecutive years from the individual's effective date of appointment shall forfeit the individual's District government employment.

(E) Each applicant for a position covered by this paragraph shall be informed in writing of the provisions of this paragraph at the time of application.

(2) The People's Counsel shall verify and enforce District residency requirements pursuant to § 1-515.04.

(3) By November 1 of each year and pursuant to § 1-515.06, the People's Counsel shall submit to the Mayor an annual report detailing, for the previous fiscal year, compliance with residency requirements.

(d) The People’s Counsel:

(1) Shall represent and appeal for the people of the District of Columbia at hearings of the Commission and in judicial proceedings in the District of Columbia courts when these proceedings and hearings involve the interests of users of the products of or services furnished by public utilities under the jurisdiction of the Commission;

(2) May represent and appeal for the people of the District of Columbia at proceedings before related federal regulatory agencies and commissions and federal courts when those proceedings involve the interests of users of the products of or services furnished by public utilities under the jurisdiction of the Commission;

(3) May represent and appear for petitioners appearing before the Commission for the purpose of complaining in matters of rates or services;

(4) May investigate independently, or within the context of formal proceedings before the Commission, the services given by, the rates charged by, and the valuation of the properties of the public utilities under the jurisdiction of the Commission;

(5) May develop means to otherwise assure that the interests of the users of the products of or services furnished by public utilities under the jurisdiction of the Commission are adequately represented in the course of proceedings before the Commission, federal or District of Columbia courts, or federal regulatory agencies and commissions involving those interests, including public information dissemination, consultative services, and technical assistance; and

(6) May perform the functions authorized by § 34-2202.05a.

(e) In defining its positions while advocating on matters pertaining to the operation of public utility or energy companies, the Office shall consider the public safety, the economy of the District of Columbia, the conservation of natural resources, and the preservation of environmental quality, including effects on global climate change and the District's public climate commitments.