It’s Their State; We Just Wallow in It

Such outrages are so common as to lose their status as such, in this state, but more interesting than the General Assembly leadership’s decision to compensate a former colleague for eight-year-old legal fees is the point of view that House Speaker Bill Murphy betrays in defending the action:

“No, it doesn’t set a precedent,” echoed Murphy.

But elsewhere:

The chairman of the legislative leadership committee that made the decision — House Speaker William J. Murphy — said he urged state payment of Harwood lawyer, Lauren Jones, because he saw the complaint as an assault on Rhode Island’s “citizen-based legislature” and more specifically, on lawyer-legislators like himself who need to earn a livelihood.

At first, I thought that the second quotation cast the $25,540 as deliberately setting a precedent that would protect citizen-legislator-lawyers, making Murphy’s other statement a contradiction, but Senator (lawyer) Teresa Paiva Weed changed my mind when she suggested that “each case would have to be evaluated on its facts.”
Y’see, it doesn’t create a precedent because the General Assembly leadership doesn’t operate according to such rules. When everything is at the whim of a half-dozen legislators, there’s no such thing as precedent. The winning argument is whichever they happen to prefer in any given case, at any given time.

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Monique
Editor
12 years ago

Great. Not only is the Ethics Commission being disassembled, it’s being done at our expense (in every sense).

Tom W
Tom W
12 years ago

On the one hand, I’m sympathetic to the argument that citizen legislators should be held harmless against non-meritorious complaints filed against them.
One could make the analogy to the legitimate practice of companies having “D&O” (Directors and Officers) insurance protecting those who serve and are acting only legitimately in the course of their duties.
OTOH, this is very much at the whim of legislative leadership because there are no precedents, much less rules or guidelines governing under what conditions such reimbursements would be made.
And few in Rhode Island would express confidence that our elected leadership would always grant such fiscal dispensations appropriately absent written rules subject to public scrutiny (or even in adherence with such rules if they existed).
INTERESTING TOO HOW SUDDENLY THIS “PRECEDENT” IS BEING ESTABLISHED AROUND THE TIME OF THE IRONS DECISION AT THE SUPREME COURT.

rhody
rhody
12 years ago

Eight years later, the stench from Harwood lingers.
I just want to know where this deal was struck. Federal Reserve? Al Forno? Capital Grille?

Will
12 years ago

I actually agree with Tom in regard to:
“On the one hand, I’m sympathetic to the argument that citizen legislators should be held harmless against non-meritorious complaints filed against them.”
If a legislator is sued in their official capacity, and there is no wrongdoing found to have occurred, I think having the legislature somehow cover the cost is reasonable. However, whether outside counsel should be reimbursed, when “inside” counsel is available, is quite another story altogether.
However, there needs to be an objective standard for deciding these kind of expenditures, and transparency in the process. We can’t have a completely subjective process based on whims, with everything decided behind closed doors by the JCLS. The JCLS is probably the most powerful state government entity that virtually everyone has never heard of. Basically, if you know what the acronym stands for, you probably know that it’s a legislative slush fund, funded entirely by our tax dollars, which the General Assembly leadership doles out at its pleasure. If you don’t know what JCLS means, by all means, keep wallowing around in your blissful ignorance.

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