Tennessee Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) is suing officials following the Republican-led House expelling him in April and temporarily silencing him in August.
Jones filed a federal lawsuit against House Speaker Cameron Sexton and House administrative officials on Tuesday (October 3), per NBC News. The lawsuit accuses House Republicans of repeatedly blocking Jones from speaking, which he believes is a violation of his free speech rights under state and federal constitutions.
News of the lawsuit comes after Tennesee House Republicans voted in April to expel Jones and Rep. Justin J. Pearson (D-Memphis), both of whom are Black, for protesting gun violence on the chamber floor in the wake of a March shooting at Nashville’s The Covenant School. A third Democrat, Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is white, also joined the protest but wasn’t expelled from the House.
The lawsuit argues that Jones’ constitutional due process rights were infringed upon by the expulsion proceedings. Jones and Pearson won special elections to keep their state seats in August.
Tennessee Republicans also voted in August to temporarily silence Jones after he questioned a Republican-sponsored bill that aimed to have armed officers serve as school resource officers in the state’s public schools. Sexton ruled that Jones was out of order for his comments, prompting the vote to silence him.
Jones’ lawsuit seeks to block Sexton and the state “from continuing to suppress dissent, whether through the updated House rules or otherwise, and to seek full restoration of the benefits, rights, and privileges that they illegally stripped from him (Jones) in retaliation for his protected speech.”
The lawsuit is also requesting Jones be returned to a committee from which he was removed, restored of other benefits including his seniority level pre-expulsion and a full year’s credit in the state’s retirement system, and awarded other damages and costs.
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