The Louisiana Senate’s Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion denied several requests from Baton Rouge attorney Jill Craft, who is representing Sen. Troy Brown, D-Napoleonville, as it deliberates, via differing resolutions, Brown’s expulsion for a pair of domestic violence misdemeanors.
The committee will hear the expulsion resolution by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, and the six-week suspension resolution by Sen. Yvonne Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, during the hearing Monday before the Senate membership, which comprises the select committee in this matter.
Having subpoena power, the committee also will hear testimony and introduce evidence during the Monday session.
Craft, in a series of requests, sought lawmakers’ emails, texting records and documents involing the Brown controversy and a list of other legislators, in both houses, who committed misdemeanors while in office over the last 10 years. The Senate emphatically said no way, calling them overly broad, time-consuming or irrelevant requests.
The meeting turned into a battle of legal jargon as Craft debated Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, and J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, both attorneys themselves.
In the end, the Senate would only approve one of Craft’s requests. Her third request asked for any documents relating to the expulsion, reprimand or discipline of any current or former legislator since January 1900 to present.
Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, objected, arguing it was too broad and cumbersome and that only one legislator — former Sen. Gaston Gerald — has ever been expelled from their seat. Gerald was in federal prison when the Senator expelled him.
Craft argued that the Legislature’s rules on discipline were unclear and that it was wrong to subject Brown to the proceedings over two misdemeanors. Brown pleaded no contest to two charges — one for domestic violence and the other for simple battery against a female — since being elected in 2015.
“I would like us not to get distracted, that it is not a question of misdemeanors. It’s a question of beating women multiple times,” Claitor countered.
Craft said she also was a victim of domestic violence but argued if the Legislature wanted to elevate domestic abuse above misdemeanors, it should introduce legislation to make the crime a felony.
“Instead of spending time doing this, why don’t we spend time addressing the real problem?” Craft said to reporters following the meeting. “We wouldn’t be here if it was a felony.”
When speaking with reporters, Brown said he felt the proceedings were worth the effort. “We’ve been dealing with this matter for about 9 to 10 months," Brown said. "No one in my district has talked to me directly (or) electronically, (asking) me to resign my seat.”
Craft also voiced concerns over the Senate’s actions, saying it stripped Brown of his right to due process. She called the hearing set for Monday, when the committee will hear the two resolutions, a “dog and pony show.”
The expulsion issue permeated the chamber of the Senate, otherwise idle as it awaits an appropriation bill from the House, the legislation that is at the heart of the special nine-day session. Colomb even managed to work in a subtle reference to the controversy in her prayer that opened the chamber’s session.
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” she reminded fellow lawmakers.