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Legislative Immunity

Robert Wechsler

Standard of proof is a big issue in ethics enforcement, as it is in any enforcement. A year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post on the mishmash of standards of proof in local ethics codes and in the codes of states that have jurisdiction over local government ethics. In many codes there is no stated standard or a worthlessly ambiguous standard. In others, the standard is clear, but a serious obstacle to enforcement...
Robert Wechsler
One way of describing government ethics is that it involves the use and abuse of the power that goes with government officials' positions. Not all such abuses are covered by ethics laws, of course. This blog post looks at an instance of abuse that is not covered. It involves a state legislature and, especially, one state representative, in a state where local ethics is handled at the state level.

Much of the background story has appeared in various City Ethics blog posts. A couple...
Robert Wechsler
There are limits on the legislative immunity of local government officials, according to a decision yesterday by the Baltimore Circuit Court in the Dixon case (attached; see below), involving the mayor of Baltimore at the time she was president of the city council.

The court rejected Dixon's motion to dismiss a second round of perjury charges (I discussed the motion in a recent...
Robert Wechsler
The next round of memoranda have been filed by the parties to the Dixon case, where the Baltimore mayor (though the case relates to her activities as council president) is raising a defense of legislative immunity in a criminal proceeding for perjury (relating to failure to disclose) to keep out evidence that she knew that a developer who gave her many gifts was involved in a development with the city.

Her first defense of legislative immunity led to the indictment being dismissed...
Robert Wechsler
A new argument has been made in the legislative immunity part of the case against a Baltimore council member who is now the mayor. In a memorandum to dismiss a new indictment (attached; see below), filed on September 8, the mayor has argued, on pages 3-10, that testimony by someone who attended events which the mayor attended in her legislative capacity cannot be used against her.

This is an interesting extension of the argument that legislative immunity prevents any evidence to be...
Robert Wechsler
Update - July 31, 2009 - see below
In my April blog post about the legislative immunity defense made by a former Baltimore council member (now the mayor), I felt that her arguments didn't have a chance. Well, I was wrong. I was wrong primarily because I thought that a state prosecutor would be determined to see the case through and, therefore, would put up a good fight on the issue. He did not (his argument on this...