Expulsion of Due Process

On November 6 voters in the District of Columbia will have an opportunity to vote on ethics laws that, if passed, would be included as amendments to the Home Rule Charter. Proposed Charter Amendment V provides for the expulsion of councilmembers for gross misconduct. The legislative text from the D.C. Register is the following.

By a 5/6 vote of its members, the Council may adopt a resolution of expulsion if it finds, based on substantial evidence, that a member of the Council took an action that amounts to a gross failure to meet the highest standards of personal and professional conduct. Expulsion is the most severe punitive action, serving as a penalty imposed for egregious wrongdoing. Expulsion results in the removal of the member. Expulsion should be used in cases in which the Council determines that the violation of law committed by a member is of the most serious nature, including those violations that substantially threaten the public trust. To protect the exercise of official member duties and the overriding principle of freedom of speech, the Council shall not impose expulsion on any member for the exercise of his or her First Amendment right, no matter how distasteful the expression of that right was to the Council and the District, or in the official exercise of his or her office.
The Council shall include in its Rules of Organization procedures for investigation, and consideration of, the expulsion of a member.

If you are a D.C. resident, then I urge you to reject Proposed Charter Amendment V for the following reasons.
1. The legislative text contains vague criteria for expulsion.
2. It does not guarantee due process of law.
3. Because of its political nature, a legislature should never have the authority to remove one of its own members.

Charter Amendment V is a dangerous proposition and must therefore be rejected.


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