Embattled state Assemblyman Steven Brooks might go before a jury of his peers sooner than he thought.
Brooks, D-North Las Vegas, was arrested Jan. 19 and faces accusations he threatened to harm Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas.
But before the case even heads to court, Brooks could end up in front of a committee of fellow lawmakers who would decide whether he is fit to serve.
Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said Thursday night he would chair the seven-member panel, which could meet as early as the second day of the legislative session, which opens Monday.
Horne said the committee won’t weigh in on potential criminal charges but will investigate whether Brooks is fit to serve and will deliver a recommendation to the full Assembly, which has the power to expel members but has never done so.
“This is all new territory in the history of our Legislature,” Horne said. “We are feeling our way through it the best that we can.”
Horne wouldn’t specify what the committee would investigate but said it would consider Brooks’ conduct before the threat allegation earlier this month.
“This special committee will hear various evidence on the conduct of Mr. Brooks and not just the conduct that led to his arrest but other conduct, things he may or may not have done prior to that,” Horne said.
It’s a tricky subject for the committee, and not just because such a procedure has not happened before in the Legislature.
Not only is Brooks yet to be convicted of wrongdoing, many have speculated he is suffering from mental illness.
On Friday, he was taken into medical custody after a domestic incident at his grandmother’s house. The “Legal 2000” process allows authorities to hold people for evaluation if it is suspected they have a mental illness and may be a threat to themselves or others.
Retired state archivist Guy Rocha said expulsion from the Legislature is unprecedented in Nevada and rare nationally.
Rocha referred to a 1967 incident when the U.S. House of Representatives refused to seat Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., D-N.Y., but the lawmaker sued, and in 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the House acted unconstitutionally.
“If they don’t have evidence of something compelling, then I feel he has the ability to go to the courts and essentially sue the Legislature,” Rocha said. “They need to be very precise about what they are doing.”
Brooks’ attorney, Mitchell Posin, said earlier Thursday his client was released from custody, but he had not had any contact with him. Brooks did not respond to a message seeking a response to the formation of the committee.
A spokeswoman for the North Las Vegas police said the department has completed its investigation into the threat, which was separate from the domestic incident that resulted in the Legal 2000 process. The police have turned the case to the attorney general’s office, which has yet to file a criminal complaint.
In an interview after the arrest, but before he was placed in medical custody, Brooks said he intended to serve in the upcoming session. Posin has said that as far as he knows, that remains the case.
Horne was careful to say Brooks wouldn’t be expelled for having an illness nor would the committee delve into the criminal case.
“By no means is this any type of witch hunt or anything like that,” he said. The committee will hear from “people who come forth with other conduct, behavior that Mr. Brooks has done that may not have been anything to do with the arrest. We will weigh that evidence.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report