Less Than a Week Before Session, Status Of Lawmaker Still Uncertain

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While his colleagues are packing up and heading to Carson City, Assemblyman Steven Brooks of North Las Vegas is in a southern Nevada mental health facility, his immediate political future uncertain.

Brooks, who would be serving a second term representing a North Las Vegas district, stands accused of threatening Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick.

Brooks has been undergoing evaluation following a string of bizarre incidents that began with reported threats he made against the speaker.

He is still uncharged, Monday's scheduled court appearance is on hold and any criminal case against him may be weakening.

The two men who initially reported the threat, Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow and State Senator Kelvin Atkinson, have since hedged their stories, leaving evidence of an actual threat, if there was one, unclear.

Meanwhile, Brooks' office on the third floor of the legislature stands ready for his return. The question is what might follow if that happens.

Former State Archivist Guy Rocha says this is all uncharted territory.

"People are trying to understand what does it mean and what do they do, on the assumption they are going to do something."

For her part, Speaker Kirkpatrick says she has no plans to seek Brooks expulsion.

If she or any other lawmaker did, they'd find little in the state's history to guide them.

Article 4 Section 6 of the state constitution says each house has the power to judge the qualifications of its membership and may punish them for disorderly conduct, even expel them with a two thirds vote. It says nothing more about how that might happen.

"Since it never happened," says Rocha, "and they never felt compelled to be strategic or proactive to make provisions for something that might happen, they are now confronted in the moment with 'what are we going to do?'"

Nevada may have never faced this issue before, but 23 other states have expelled legislators.

A spokesman for the Legislative Counsel Bureau says it has been researching those cases and related legal questions and, if and when asked by the lawmakers, say they would have some guidance..

But even the lawmakers may not have the final say. An attempt to exclude Congressman Adam Clayton Powell from the House of Representatives in 1969 was eventually ruled unconstitutional. That's case law Assemblyman Brooks could turn to if he needed to fight exclusion in court.

Meanwhile the immediate questions include will he show up Monday, will he be seated if he does and, if seated, would anyone move to have him expelled.

Those are tough questions and people on all sides have rights to be protected.

Rocha says the first question concerns security, making sure those in the legislative building are not at risk. Then there's his rights and those of the people in his district.

"Constituents have elected him," says Rocha. "Can you deny him the opportunity to sit in that body because of allegations, not because of a conviction."