Despite two arrests on domestic abuse charges in the last 15 months — and two convictions on misdemeanor charges related to those arrests — state Sen. Troy Brown won’t step down. Sadly, Brown’s refusal to resign his Senate post has left many in the Louisiana Democratic party crawfishing on his fate: condemning him but not demanding his ouster. This should be an easy call.
Brown, D-Napoleonville, was arrested twice on charges of abusing two different women — one his wife, the other his “side friend.” In both cases, Brown pleaded no contest, effectively conceding the charges against him. His excuses and apologies have ranged from claiming a brain injury that prevented him from remembering the first incident to citing the Bible and claiming God’s forgiveness.
This week, as the 38 other senators convened as the Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion, Brown arrived with a lawyer who sought to recast the committee hearing as an actual trial, demanding evidence and arguing that the Legislature’s expulsion criteria were unclear. The gathering was merely procedural, to decide preliminary matters and determine a hearing schedule. Brown’s attorney also went to the 19th Judicial District Court seeking to block the Senate from disciplining him. The judge demurred, at least for now. Even so, the Senate has constitutional authority to discipline its members, and the Separation of Powers Clause should plainly bar the courts from interfering in the Senate’s business.
State Sens. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, and Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, introduced the expulsion resolution. State Sen. Yvonne Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, offered a softer measure that would see Brown suspended for six weeks. The Senate will meet Monday, Feb. 20, to decide Brown’s fate.
To their credit, two New Orleans Democratic legislators — Sen. JP Morrell and Rep. Helena Moreno — have called for Brown’s ouster since last summer. So has Gov. John Bel Edwards, another Democrat. The state Democratic party, however, has muted its criticism, finally saying last month that the party was “extremely troubled” by Brown’s “ongoing issues.” State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, head of the Louisiana Democratic Party, said after Brown’s second conviction, “I believe it has become increasingly difficult for Sen. Brown to effectively serve his district.”
It wouldn’t be Louisiana politics without a larger irony, and it’s a doozy: Three years ago, Brown sponsored a bill to create a Louisiana Domestic Violence Commission.
Republicans, meanwhile, have not been covered in glory on the issue of how men treat women. Also this week: the Louisiana Family Forum presented a "family advocate" award to state Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, who last year offered what he called a “joke amendment” to set limits on the ages and weights of exotic dancers. Havard’s antics didn’t rise to the level of Brown’s crimes, but it was ironic to see a group that professes to promote “family values” giving Havard a “family advocate” laurel.
If Democrats don’t get behind expelling Brown, they’ve got little right to complain about Louisiana’s ill treatment of women in general. In the meantime, it’s clear: Troy Brown must go.