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Article One of the U.S. Constitution creates a federal district, separate from the states, to function as the capital of the United States.  That federal district is called the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., or simple “D.C.”  Residents of the District of Columbia could not vote for the U.S. president until 1961, when the Twenty-third Amendment was ratified. 

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Since that time, D.C. residents continue to lack full representation in Congress.  They are represented in the House of Representatives by a delegate who can participate in debates, introduce legislation, and serve on committees – but cannot vote in the House.  Furthermore, the District of Columbia residents are not represented in the Senate.  Despite this lack of representation, D.C. residents must pay federal taxes and abide by federal law. 

Although Washington, D.C. implemented a handgun ban in 1976, the city suffered from a surge of violent crime in the early 1990s, and soon gained a reputation as the “murder capital” of the nation.  However, since the 1990s, the rate of homicides and other violent crime has dropped sharply.    

In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the Equal Protection Clause in a manner that made it markedly harder for plaintiffs to win discrimination cases.  In Washington v. Davis, the Court found that the Washington, D.C. Police Department’s verbal skills test, which African-Americans disproportionately failed, did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Specifically, the Court held that state action is not automatically unconstitutional merely because it has a racially disproportionate impact; rather, plaintiffs need to prove that the state had a discriminatory motive.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court again interpreted a Washington D.C. law, this time finding the District of Columbia’s handgun ban unconstitutional.  In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court ruled that the ban violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms.  Nonetheless, the city can still enforce other gun control laws; for example, D.C. requires gun owners to register their weapons, and the city still outlaws assault weapons. 

If you need legal representation in the Washington D.C. area, you may be overwhelmed by the many choices; after all, there are currently 46,689 lawyers living and practicing law in the District of Columbia.  However, LegalMatch can help you narrow your choices by price range, specialty, credentials, and past customer reviews.  LegalMatch is free, confidential, and easy to use.

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Last Modified: 05-15-2014 02:37 PM PDT

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