State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) filed legislation on Tuesday requiring the Alabama Ethics Commission to provide someone accused of an ethics or campaign finance violation with any exculpatory evidence in the commission's possession before resolving the case or forwarding it to a prosecutor.

The legislation that the commission shall "provide to the person alleged to have violated the law any fact, statement, document, or other exculpatory evidence that supports the innocence of the person or that may exonerate or tends to exonerate the person which the state ethics commission has in its possession." Exculpatory evidence is any information that may prove or point to an accused person's innocence.

Orr didn't return a request for comment on Tuesday.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County Circuit Court in November against the Alabama Ethics Commission, stating their advisory opinion No. 2022-03 "directly interferes with and impairs his duties." An attorney for the ethics commission filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in December.

The opinion from July 2022 states that the "Ethics Commission is not required or permitted to disclose exculpatory information or Brady material to respondents of complaints filed with the Ethics Commission."

"Referrals from the Ethics Commission are useless to the Attorney General when discovery is conducted by the Ethics Commission in the legally deficient manner prescribed by the advisory opinion," Marshall said in the lawsuit.

Marshall asks in the lawsuit for the court to rule that the advisory opinion was "adopted in violation of the Alabama Administrative Procedure Act" and declare it null and void.

Brian Hall Patterson, Jr., attorney for the Alabama Ethics Commission, said in a motion to dismiss in December that "revocation of Advisory Opinion 2022-03 would cause a chilling effect for both potential complainants and witnesses if they knew that their statements could be produced to the respondent" and the "nullification of Advisory Opinion 2022-03 could also result in the public disclosure of evidence that may be incomplete and damaging to complainants or third parties."

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