Nevada legislature ousts lawmaker, as "personal matters" cited

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 28, 2013 6:42 PM

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - The Nevada State Assembly voted on Thursday to expel Democratic Assemblyman Steven Brooks, in the first ouster of its kind in the history of the state legislature.

Brooks had been on administrative leave from the Assembly since just one week after the legislature convened on February 4, after he was arrested twice in separate incidents in January and February.

In January, Brooks was jailed on suspicion of leveling a death threat against the incoming Assembly speaker, Marilyn Kirkpatrick, a Democrat from North Las Vegas.

Police say they found Brooks driving around with a handgun and 41 rounds of ammunition when they arrested him on January 19.

Kirkpatrick had recently passed Brooks over for the chairmanship of an influential legislative committee in the latest of several political disputes between the two, Brooks's attorney told Reuters at the time.

Before the vote on Thursday, Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, a Republican from Reno, told Assembly members that Kirkpatrick had carried the weight of the process that ultimately led to Brooks's ouster.

"No person has felt the difficulty of this difficult decision more than our speaker," he said of Kirkpatrick, who was visibly upset before and after the vote.

Brooks could not be reached for comment on the legislature's action, and his attorney did not return calls.

Lawmakers who spoke on Thursday before the vote did not directly say why they were moving to expel Brooks. The action came a day after a Nevada Assembly Select Committee met behind closed doors and emerged to vote 6-1 to recommend the lawmaker's ouster.

Such closed door meetings are allowed under the Nevada constitution when lawmakers are discussing a colleague's character, alleged misconduct, professional competence, or physical or mental health, said Rick Combs, director of Nevada's Legislative Counsel Bureau.

The expulsion of Brooks was approved by a voice vote carried in a live webcast. The ouster was effective immediately.

Hickey said on the Assembly floor before the vote that the move to expel a friend saddened him and his colleagues.

The expulsion of Brooks was approved by a voice vote carried in a live webcast. The ouster was effective immediately.

Hickey added that he and members of the Assembly hoped Brooks "would take care of the personal matters that have made this decision the difficult one that it is."

Brooks's second arrest came in February, this time outside his Las Vegas home on suspicion of domestic battery and obstructing officers. Police said he had attacked a member of his family.

A Democrat from Brooks's district will be named to replace him by commissioners in Clark County where Brooks was elected, according to provisions in Nevada law and the state constitution that provide for filling vacant legislative seats.

Nevada lawmakers in the 19th century launched proceedings that could have led to an expulsion but did not, Combs said.

Nevada brings to 24 the number of legislatures that have expelled sitting members in the past 100 years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Dan Whitcomb and Leslie Adler)