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Attorney general sues Alabama Ethics Commission

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is suing the Alabama Ethics Commission over a decision this year, saying, at the time, its ruling was “deeply concerning, both ethically and legally.”

During a special meeting in July, the commission decided by a unanimous vote that the panel was under no obligation to provide exculpatory information to an accused individual.

On Monday, Marshall filed a lawsuit against the commission to get the rule reversed.

The commission was created by the Alabama Legislature in 1973, and operates as an investigative body charged with the task of considering potential violations of state ethics laws. It refers cases to prosecuting authorities and can handle minor violations on its own through the administrative resolution process.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, a spokesman for Marshall’s office said “the Attorney General has challenged an ethics opinion under the Alabama Administrative Procedures Act. We have no further comment.”

The lawsuit, first reported by Alabama Political Reporter, claims the policy of not requiring or permitting the disclosure of exculpatory information to those who are the target of an investigation could interfere with the defense.

“Thus, the respondent can neither be confident that he fully understands the case against him,” it says, “nor that the exculpatory evidence has been considered by the Ethics Commission before it votes on whether to refer the matter for prosecution or administrative resolution. In either case, the respondent’s legal defense is impeded.”

The defendants in the lawsuit include Commissioners John Plunk, Stan McDonald, Lynn Stuart and Ed Crowell and Executive Director Tom Albritton.

Reacting to Marshall’s opinion, Albritton said, “We disagree with the AG’s analysis and conclusions because the Opinion accurately reflects existing case law on the issue, and the Commission is bound by that precedent. As stated by the Commission publicly when they approved the Advisory Opinion, however, the Commission welcomes a court of competent jurisdiction to review these issues in light of the applicable statutory provisions and existing case law and will abide by whatever direction that Court gives us.”

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” weekdays 9-11 a.m. on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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