Tennessee state Rep. Justin Jones (D) has filed suit against the state and several politicians, claiming that he was unconstitutionally removed from office.
Jones is one of the so-called “Tennessee Three,” dubbed so for facing disciplinary action amid gun control protests in the state House chamber following a mass shooting in March at The Covenant School in Nashville where three 9-year-olds and three adults were killed.
He and Rep. Justin Pearson (D) were ousted from their state House seats amid the protests. Along with their fellow Democrat, Rep. Gloria Johnson, they were accused of breaking House rules by calling for gun reform. The two ousted Representatives are Black while Johnson, who survived an expulsion vote, is white. Both of the ousted lawmakers have since won reelection.
The three lawmakers’ call for stricter gun laws came as the state House was considering looser gun laws, including allowing people to carry rifles and shotguns in public without a permit, and to allow faculty or school staff members to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds with a permit.
In his suit, Jones, represents Nashville, asserts that he was expelled for attempting to lead “open discussion about the use of weapons of war in murdering six Nashville citizens” and since his reinstatement has been “blocked from expressing views on critical issues that he was elected to express, ensuring that viewpoints dissenting from their own are silenced, neither heard nor spoken.”
As part of his expulsion, Jones was also removed from House committees, including the Government Operations and Education Administration committees, which he said he has not yet been restored to, despite Nashville’s city council having voted unanimously in April to reinstate Jones to his position in the state House, and then his winning reelection in August.
“This censorship violates the constitutions of Tennessee and of the United States and is an anathema to a free, democratic society,” Jones’ lawsuit alleges.
Further, Jones asserted that being “forced” to run again in a special election, his campaign had to spend “over $70,000…solely as a result of the unconstitutional and illegal expulsion.”
Jones won his special election by a wide margin, defeating GOP candidate Laura Nelson by 55 points.
Along with asking that his temporary expulsion be declared a violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Tennessee state constitution, Jones wants it to not have “any effect on his rights, privileges or entitlements,” including seniority in the legislative body.
He is also asking that the new rules instituted during a special state House session in August, which carry harsh penalties for lawmakers deemed too disruptive or distracting, be declared unconstitutional and in violation of the First Amendment.
Jones is additionally demanding that he no longer be punished or prevented from “speaking on the floor of the House or otherwise in his capacity as a duly elected member of the House of Representatives.”