Karl A. Racine is the first elected Attorney General of the District of Columbia. Since his inauguration in 2015, Racine has worked to build an independent office focused on serving the public interest. He has established an Office of Consumer Protection within the Office of the Attorney General, prioritized data-driven juvenile justice reform, introduced measures to advance democracy and safeguard public integrity, and taken legal action to protect affordable housing.
Early Life and Education
Racine was born in Haiti, where his father was the mayor of a small town. His family was forced to flee the repressive Duvalier regime, bringing Racine and his older sister to the District when he was just three years old. He attended DC public schools, including Murch Elementary, Deal Junior High, and Wilson High, and graduated from St. John’s College High School. He also played basketball in youth sports leagues across the city.
Racine attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he was captain of the basketball team, and was selected as MVP for two seasons, and All-Ivy once. Inspired by the attorneys of the civil rights movement who used the law to make positive social change, Racine went on to the University of Virginia School of Law. There, he worked at the migrant farmworkers’ law clinic, making sure that the rights of local agricultural workers were respected.
Racine has spent his career moving between private practice and public service. He began his legal career at Venable LLP before going to work for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, serving District residents who could not afford to hire a lawyer. After that, he joined the law firm Cacheris & Treanor, where he continued working on criminal cases and expanded his work in complex civil litigation. He returned to public practice as Associate White House Counsel under President Bill Clinton and spent three years working to defend the president, the First Lady, and the White House staff in investigations.
Racine eventually rejoined Venable as a partner, working on complex civil and white collar matters and heading the associate committee, where he was in charge of hiring, training, and developing young associates. He was elected managing partner in 2005, becoming the first African-American managing partner of a top-100 US law firm. During his time as managing partner, he successfully recruited more minority partners and grew the firm despite the pressures of the Great Recession.
As the chief legal officer for the District of Columbia, Racine advises the Mayor and District agencies, defends the city in court, and uses the law to advance the public interest. He has taken action on some of the most pressing issues affecting the lives of District residents.
Since taking office, Racine has advanced data-driven juvenile justice reforms. He helped to end mandatory shackling of juveniles appearing before DC Superior Court and led the way to increase options for the rehabilitation of low-risk juvenile offenders. During his tenure, a diversion program that helps young people get and stay on the right track has so far achieved a success rate of more than 80 percent.
Racine established a standalone Office of Consumer Protection within his office, focused on outreach, education, and legal actions to protect consumers. He has brought tens of millions of dollars to the District and its consumers through settlements and judgments in cases against corporate wrongdoers, including payday lenders, for-profit colleges, sham charities, and others.
Racine has stood up for immigrant communities. He introduced legislation that protects consumers against “notario fraud,” an illegal practice involving unqualified people who pretend to be able to offer immigration help and advice, and has also sued these fraudulent “notarios.”
Racine has vigorously defended challenges to the District’s law requiring applicants for permits to carry concealed guns in public to state a ‘good reason’ for doing so. Racine believes the District’s gun laws are constitutional, reasonable, and in line with laws in other states that federal appellate courts have upheld, and he continues to stand up for the District’s right to keep its citizens safe.