Louisiana Senate Keeps Options Open for Troy Brown Discipline

State Senate

The Louisiana Senate is keeping its options open for punishing Sen. Troy Brown, D-Napoleonville, who pleaded no contest twice in five months to domestic abuse charges. Senators voted Monday night (Feb. 13) to consider both expulsion and suspension (NOLA.com).

 

Keeping expulsion in play received overwhelming support, with a 30-3 vote. But the suspension option moved forward on a two-vote margin, including one cast by Brown (NOLA.com).

Before the votes, Brown worked the Senate floor, shaking hands and chatting with his colleagues. He sat in the front row for Gov. John Bel Edwards‘ speech to legislators at the start of the special session. He seemed friendly and in good spirits, even as a few colleagues avoided him on the floor (NOLA.com).

 

Brown has refused to resign, despite calls from others to do so. He is expected to fight the expulsion proposal, and possibly the suspension measure as well (NOLA.com).

He would not comment on what he might do. He said his lawyer, Jill Craft of Baton Rouge, would release a statement Tuesday morning after she reviews the expulsion and suspension resolutions. Craft has represented several high-profile state workers fired from state government in wrongful termination lawsuits. She has not returned calls for comment on Brown’s case (NOLA.com).

 

Under the expulsion option, Brown would be removed from the Senate permanently. Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, would call a special election 10 days later to replace him (NOLA.com).

 

Under the suspension option, Brown would be removed for six weeks. He would pay a personal fine of $2,500 to the Louisiana Coalition for Domestic Violence and agree to take enroll in a domestic violence course sanctioned by a Louisiana district court for six months (NOLA.com).

Senators will meet for an initial hearing on disciplining Brown on Wednesday at 10 a.m., to authorize evidence collection in the case. They plan a longer hearing Feb. 20 at 9 a.m. to debate and take an initial vote on the merits of punishing him (NOLA.com).

The Senate would need a third, as yet unscheduled vote to impose discipline. That would require a two-thirds majority to pass. Sen. Dan Claitor of Baton Rouge, one of the sponsors of the expulsion resolution, said it would likely happen Feb. 21, the day before the final day of the special session (NOLA.com).

Brown was allowed to vote Monday on whether the suspension and expulsion measures should be considered, but Senate rules forbid him to vote on either resolution moving forward. He may be present during the hearings with his attorney to represent his views. The hearings are open to the public (NOLA.com).

 

Some of the debate over Brown, an African American, is falling along partisan lines. Three white Republicans — Claitor and Sens. Beth Mizell of Franklinton and Sharon Hewitt of Slidell — have sponsored the expulsion proposal (NOLA.com).

 

A black Democrat, Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb of Baton Rouge, is pushing the suspension alternative, and she tried to block the expulsion measure Monday. Three Democratic senators and one Republican were absent during the votes on both measures (NOLA.com).

Dorsey-Colomb is a domestic violence survivor herself. But she said she believes in forgiveness and redemption. She said she has talked to Brown extensively about his domestic abuse problems and thinks he feels remorse (NOLA.com).

“I have been beaten and battered in a marriage for a long time before I got out,” she said, adding: “I think there is no member in the Senate that is perfect and has not sinned.” 

Dorsey-Colomb said senators should think long and hard before they forcibly remove a colleague who is representing voters in a Senate district they don’t know. Brown’s constituents haven’t tried to recall him, which would indicate that they don’t think he should be removed, she said (NOLA.com).

Yet other Democrats have come down strongly against Brown. Sen. J.P. Morrell, an African American from New Orleans, led an effort to scuttle the suspension resolution in favor of the expulsion option (NOLA.com).

 

The governor, too, a white Democrat, reiterated in an interview Friday that he thought Brown should resign. “I would just repeat that I think he ought resign and spare his colleagues going through this process,” Edwards said. “But the institution of the Senate is going to have to deal with that.”

There is some concern from senators about trying to discipline Brown during the nine-day special session, instead of waiting for the Legislature’s regular 45-day session that begins April 10. Brown may go to court for an order to block any discipline, and senators have worried he might “run out the clock” on the expulsion process if an injunction extends the process beyond the special session. 

Claitor and Alario said they are optimistic the court won’t intervene. “I’m hoping the court will realize the Senate has the constitutional authority to judge its members,” Alario said in an interview (NOLA.com).

Alario has already marginalized Brown. After Brown was arrested for the second time on domestic abuse charges, the Senate president removed him from all committees, giving Brown significantly less influence over legislation. 

Last month, Brown pleaded no contest to his second misdemeanor related to domestic abuse, on his wife in Ascension Parish. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, a $300 fine and 64 hours of community service. Judge Frank Foil suspended almost all of the jail sentence, meaning Brown served less than two days behind bars (NOLA.com).

 

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