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ACLU Raises Concerns About Rhode Island Senate Rush to Expel Kettle

Posted: February 20, 2018|

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The ACLU has sent a letter to the RI Senate raising concerns about the apparent rush to hold a vote to seek Senator Nicholas Kettle’s expulsion following the filing of formal criminal charges against him.  A democratically elected Senator, Kettle has declined to resign his Senate seat while he contests the charges.

The letter states in part:

“We are alarmed at the apparent haste by which the Senate is considering the possibility of seeking his expulsion from the Senate under Article VI, Section 7 of the state Constitution….As serious as the criminal charges are, so too is the act of expelling a democratically elected legislator from the seat he earned from the voters of his district.

“It is our understanding that the Senate has not used Article VI, Section 7 in modern history to expel a member. We therefore believe it is essential that there be clear standards and measures in place before engaging in such an historic effort. To vote to expel a sitting Senator without any formal, carefully-considered procedures establishes a dangerous practice.  In the absence of clear due process standards, the Senate’s actions in this case will set a precedent that could be used for less principled purposes in the future.”

The letter goes on to point out that although the State Constitution gives the Senate the power to punish its members, that power should be exercised with an abundance of caution.  Given that Senators are democratically elected, and given the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” underlying our criminal justice system, the letter urges the Senate to slow down the rush to vote in order to consider very carefully the procedures used to oust members.

The full text of the letter is available here.

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