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For first time, Nevada legislature ousts lawmaker after arrests

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - The Nevada State Assembly expelled Democratic Assemblyman Steven Brooks on Thursday after he was arrested twice this year, in the first time the chamber ousted a member in the history of the state legislature.

Brooks' expulsion was approved by a voice vote and the ouster was effective immediately.

Lawmakers who spoke on Thursday before the vote did not say why they were moving to expel Brooks. The action came a day after a Nevada Assembly Select Committee met behind closed doors and voted 6-1 to recommend the lawmaker's ouster.

Such closed-door meetings are allowed under the Nevada constitution when lawmakers are discussing a colleague's character, alleged misconduct, professional competence, or physical or mental health, said Rick Combs, director of Nevada's Legislative Counsel Bureau.

After Brooks was arrested twice in separate incidents in January and February, he was placed on administrative leave from the Assembly for behavioral reasons, said Assemblyman Paul Aizley, a Democratic leader in the legislature.

Brooks could not be reached for comment on the legislature's action, and his attorney did not return calls.

Brooks is the first member of Nevada's legislature ever to be expelled, Combs said.

A Democrat from Brooks' district will be named to replace him by commissioners in Clark County where Brooks was elected, according to provisions in Nevada law and the state constitution that provide for filling vacant legislative seats.

Brooks was arrested in February outside his Las Vegas home on suspicion of domestic battery and obstructing officers. Police said he had attacked a member of his family.

In January, he was arrested on suspicion of leveling a death threat against the incoming Assembly speaker, Marilyn Kirkpatrick, a Democrat from North Las Vegas.

Police say they found Brooks driving around with a handgun and 41 rounds of ammunition when they arrested him on January 19. The case was turned over to the state attorney general, but charges have not been filed.

Kirkpatrick had recently passed Brooks over for the chairmanship of an influential legislative committee in the latest of several political disputes between the two, Brooks' attorney told Reuters at the time.

Brooks faces four charges stemming from the incident in February. The charges filed in Las Vegas court range from resisting an officer with a firearm, a felony, to misdemeanor domestic battery, prosecutors said in a statement.

An arraignment is scheduled for April 11.

Before the vote on Thursday, Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, a Republican from Reno, told Assembly members that Kirkpatrick had carried the weight of the process that ultimately led to Brooks' ouster.

"No person has felt the difficulty of this difficult decision more than our speaker," he said of Kirkpatrick, who was visibly upset before and after the vote.

Hickey said on the Assembly floor before the vote that the move to expel a friend saddened him and his colleagues.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Dan Whitcomb, Leslie Adler and Philip Barbara)

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