TN House Speaker Declines to Move Forward with Byrd Expulsion

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   As reported last week by NewsChannel 5 in Nashville, Tennessee House Speaker Cameran Sexton has said that he will not move forward with expelling Rep. David Byrd from the Tennessee House of Representatives. The decision came after Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued his opinion on whether Rep. Byrd can be expelled from the House.

   In the opinion, AG Slatery said Tennessee law doesn’t prohibit the legislature from using its expulsion power to oust Byrd, but he recommends it should only be used “in extreme circumstances and with extreme caution.” He went on to say the power should “rarely if ever,” be used.

   Rep. Byrd has been accused of a sexual assault that allegedly took place approximately thirty years ago, at a time when he was a teacher and basketball coach at Wayne County High School. No criminal charges have been filed against Byrd in the matter.

   House Speaker Sexton responded to the opinion with the following statement: “We greatly appreciate Attorney General Slatery and his staff for their thorough and thoughtful assessment of our request. As he stated in his opinion, Tennessee’s chief legal officer ‘counsels against’ using expulsion power in this instance due to ‘constitutional restraints, sound policy considerations, and historical practice.’ After consulting with House leadership and our committee chairmen, we will heed Attorney General Slatery’s advice and not move forward.”

   Prior to the AG’s opinion, Speaker Sexton sent a letter to Slatery asking whether a State Representative can be expelled for actions prior to their election.

   Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael Curcio (R-Dickson) released a statement on Attorney General Slattery’s opinion: “Today, I was informed that Attorney General Herbert Slatery has released his opinion on the question, posed by Speaker Cameron Sexton, as to whether the Tennessee House of Representatives may expel a member for conduct that occurred more than twenty-five years before the member’s initial election to the House and that was known to the member’s constituents when they most recently re-elected him.

   The Speaker has shared with me that the Attorney General has opined and counsels against our legislative body using expulsion power in this instance due to constitutional restraints, sound policy considerations, and historical practice.

   I have been advised by my legal counsel that as the legislature is not currently in session, no committee can take action without a charge from the Speaker of the House, and based upon the Attorney General’s opinion, the Speaker will not be granting such a charge to the House Judiciary Committee on this matter.

   If any member of the General Assembly has credible accusations of actions committed by Representative Byrd during his term, evidence of such should be relayed to the House Ethics Committee immediately.”