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April 21, 2014

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Assembly has constitutional authority to expel Brooks, lawyer insists

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Assemblyman Steven Brooks waits for the start of a floor session Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 during the 2013 legislative session in Carson City.

Responding to a lawsuit from troubled Assemblyman Steven Brooks, lawyers for the Nevada Assembly argued today that lawmakers have the constitutional authority to both discipline members, as well as keep the legislative workplace safe by banning Brooks from the building following his multiple arrests and erratic behavior.

Brooks filed a lawsuit with the Nevada Supreme Court following Assembly Majority Leader William Horne’s decision to place him on paid administrative leave and ban him from the Legislative Building. Since the start of the year, Brooks has been arrested twice — once on allegations he threatened the life of Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick and a second time on charges of domestic battery and obstructing a police officer. He has also been involuntarily admitted for a psychiatric evaluation following a domestic disturbance involving a sword.

Brooks’ lawyer argued legislative leaders violated the constitution by keeping Brooks from executing his duties as an elected official.

But in a response filed Wednesday, legislative lawyer Brenda Erdoes argued the constitution not only gives the Assembly express powers to discipline and even expel its members, it also prohibits the Nevada Supreme Court from reversing the Legislature’s decision in such matters.

“Given the breadth of its express power to determine the rules of its proceedings and punish its members for disorderly conduct under Article 4, Section 6, the Assembly had the authority to take preventative and disciplinary action against the Petitioner pending further investigation into his fitness to serve as a member of the Assembly,” Erdoes wrote.

“As a fundamental rule of the separation of powers, this court generally will not issue a writ of mandamus to compel either House of the Legislature to perform an act which would be in conflict with the exclusive powers conferred upon the House by the Nevada Constitution,” she continued.

Erdoes also noted that Brooks’ lawyer, Mitchell Posin, sued the wrong entity, naming the Legislature instead of the Assembly in his lawsuit.

A select committee charged with investigating whether Brooks is fit to continue serving as an elected legislator in the Assembly will meet on Tuesday to hear evidence from a special counsel. The committee will then make a recommendation to the full Assembly.

If Brooks is expelled from the Legislature, the Clark County Commission would appoint a replacement.

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