The impeachment investigation of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley will remain paused, at least for now.
The Alabama Attorney General’s Office’s investigation regarding Gov. Robert Bentley isn’t complete, Special Assistant Attorney General Ellen Brooks confirmed in a letter sent on Feb. 24.
The letter came out during the House Judiciary Committee’s meeting Tuesday to discuss the status of their separate impeachment investigation into Bentley.
The committee voted on a motion to put the public activities of the committee on hold but resume the investigation. The motion failed in a tie and the meeting adjourned.
There will now be meetings to determine the next step. No dates for those meetings were announced.
The impeachment hearings and investigation have been on hold since November. Then-Attorney General Luther Strange asked the committee to “cease active interviews and investigation” until “the necessary related work” of his office was complete.
Brooks was appointed to oversee the case after new District Attorney Steve Marshall recused himself.
On Tuesday, the committee also discussed whether the impeachment of the governor could cause the legal issue of double jeopardy and impede any potential subsequent criminal proceedings. Double jeopardy prevents a person from being tried on the same or similar charges once acquitted.
Committee Chairman Mike Jones said he met with Brooks, who is handling the Alabama Attorney General Office’s investigation into the governor’s office, on Feb. 24.
Brooks raised the question of double jeopardy in a letter she sent Jones, which cited a 1933 attempted impeachment that was blocked after an official was acquitted of criminal charges.
In the 1933 case, the Alabama Supreme Court held that the result of an impeachment proceeding in circuit court could bind the State of Alabama in a subsequent criminal proceeding.
“Although the Court has not considered whether an impeachment proceeding in the Legislature would have the same effect, such a proceeding could create a legal issue for the courts to resolve in any potential criminal proceeding,” Brooks wrote.
Brooks wrote that she wanted to bring this case to Jones’ attention “in an abundance of caution as the committee determines its course of action.”
Legislative Fiscal Office lawyer Othni Lathram said he reviewed the 1933 case and didn’t see a significant concern for impacting House proceedings.
If the House voted to impeach the governor, he would be suspended from office until the Senate ruled.
Laura F. Nixon