Above the law

Legislators are elected to represent their constituents, not to be superior to them. But we’ve already seen many examples in this session of the Nevada Legislature that show that this is not the case. Legislators aren’t just treated as belonging to a class above their constituents, they appear to be of a class above the law.

Absurdly, this session seems more like a comic book movie than a deliberate legislative body. It’s easy to imagine the Sylvester Stallone version of Judge Joseph Dredd coming to the floor and shouting, “That’s a lie. The evidence has been falsified. It’s impossible. I never broke the law. I am the law.”

And while it’s not all that surprising that lawmakers would want to imagine themselves as somehow superior to the rules they create, we see through its inaction that the executive branch also feels that way.

It doesn’t take the most imaginative person to guess what would happen to the average person—mentally ill, in the throes of addiction, or with a brain tumor the size of a grapefruit—who physically struggled with Las Vegas police. He or she would, at minimum, be constrained with extreme prejudice, and more likely, would be admitted to a hospital or morgue long before visiting the Clark County Detention Facility.

And to go for a cop’s gun? Can we at least agree that a person who was not an elected official would be at least formally charged with a crime?

As of this writing, Steven Brooks has still not been formally charged with any crime, despite the fact that he’s been arrested twice for behavior that is at least potentially violent. How fast would an average citizen be strapped down to a chair to have blood removed for toxicology and internal possession tests if he or she were accused of attacking his or her spouse, attacking a police officer or threatening an elected official?

Why is Brooks above the law?

Then we’ve got the Select Committee on the Assembly adopting rules that allow Chair William Horne to obstruct Brooks from carrying out Brooks’ duly elected and sworn duties. The Nevada Constitution does allow the house to discipline its members, but it requires a two-thirds vote of all the assemblymembers to do so—not some committee. There has been no such vote. Horne is just making up rules of convenience. Brooks hasn’t been convicted of any crime.

Why is Horne above the law?

And that brings us to our third example: Assemblymember Andrew Martin. Even before the election, District Court Judge Rob Bare found that Andrew Martin was not an actual resident of Assembly District 9. Somehow, the Assembly is acting as the sole arbiter of election law, allowing Martin to represent a district he didn’t even live in at the time of his election. Assuming the court findings are true and Clark County voter registration documents are accurate, Martin’s not only representing a constituency he doesn’t belong to, but he also voted in Assembly District 9 on Oct. 21. (And by the way, isn’t it revealing that it’s a felony for regular citizens to lie on voter registration forms, but it’s a gross misdemeanor for candidates to lie on candidacy paper?)

Why is Martin above the law?

It’s easy to see why members of the Assembly wouldn’t want to enforce laws upon their own members, but why aren’t enforcement officials acting? We have a separation of powers in the branches of government specifically to prevent these types of special treatment.