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Ethics Commission asks R.I. Supreme Court to overturn ruling questioning its authority

On December 22, 2008, the Ethics Commission filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the Rhode Island Supreme Court to ask that Court to review the October, 2008 Superior Court Decision which dismissed ethics charges against former Senate President William V. Irons, and, in so doing , accepted Irons’ defense that the state Constitution protected legislators from prosecution based on their votes or other legislative activities. The constitutional provision, called the “speech in debate” clause, gives legislative activities broad protection from outside interference.

“A ruling by this court is necessary to resolve the question of the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction which will continue to arise in every newly issued advisory opinion and newly filed complaint that relates to members of the General Assembly,” the commission wrote, in asking for the high court’s review.

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