According to the Alabama Political Reporter, this type of lawsuit, where one state agency sues another, is quite rare. The lawsuit, filed Monday in Montgomery County Circuit Court, names Commissioners John Plunk, Stan McDonald, Lynn Stuart, Ed Crowell, and executive director Tom Albritton as defendants.
The lawsuit says the Ethics Commission’s rule 2022-13 is in violation of the Alabama Administrative Procedures Act. The commission adopted an opinion this year stating that it had no responsibility to disclose to individuals under investigation any exculpatory information it might uncover during the course of the investigation. The lawsuit argues that the Brady rule was established in a 1963 federal case, Brady v. Maryland, and requires prosecutors to disclose material favorable to the accused as a matter of due process.
In the lawsuit, Marshall says his office cannot trust the referrals for criminal investigation or administrative resolutions because of the policy of not disclosing exculpatory information to the person under investigation, a policy supported by an Ethics Commission advisory opinion adopted in July.
Essentially, the Ethics Commission’s ruling argues that if, during the course of an investigation, evidence is found that would aid the person under investigation, the Commission has no responsibility to disclose said information, even if it could end the investigation and clear that person’s name.
“Thus, the respondent can neither be confident that he fully understands the case against him, 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,” the lawsuit states. “In either case, the respondent’s legal defense is impeded.”
In a statement this morning, Albritton defended the policy.
“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,” Albritton stated. “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.”
According to the Ethics Commission website, the mission of the Commission is to ensure that public officials are independent and impartial, that decisions and policies are made in the proper governmental channels, that public office is not used for private gain, and that there is public confidence in the integrity of government.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News and is published from a syndicated feed.)