State Rep. Justin Jones (D) filed a lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court against Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) and other officials in the state House for expelling and silencing him in the legislative body.
In April, the Tennessee House voted to expel Jones after he protested gun violence following a school shooting in Nashville that left three adults and three children dead. After that, Sexton led the move to expel both Jones and state Rep. Justin Pearson from the chamber for speaking on the House floor without permission.
Jones protested gun violence by speaking on the house floor in April, was expelled, re-instated, and then during an August special session was prohibited from speaking the rest of the day when he spoke off-topic
“No one is above the law, including Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton,” Jones said in a statement. “This lawsuit is about challenging authoritarianism and ensuring the voices of over 70,000 people in District 52, one of the most diverse districts in our state, are not silenced by someone wishing to stomp out dissent.”
The expulsion led Jones to lose his committee seats, according to the lawsuit, which says that between Jones’ protest and his expulsion, he was subjected to “repeated personal and ad hominem attacks” from Sexton and other Republican members of the House. The attacks cited in the lawsuit include accusations that Jones was trying to start a riot when he protested on the House floor and comparisons to Donald Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
After Jones was reinstated to the state House, the lawsuit claims, Sexton still “imposed and abused new draconian and unconstitutional procedural rules” to silence Jones during an August special session on gun violence. At the time, Sexton ruled Jones “out of order” after members of the chamber said he spoke off-topic, and he was not allowed to speak for the rest of the day. The lawsuit cites one instance of Jones being ruled “out of order” after saying, during a debate on police in schools, that what schools needed was more mental health professionals and higher wages for teachers.
Sexton did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Jones’ lawsuit asks, among other things, for his expulsion to be declared unconstitutional and for him to be reinstated to his committee seats, with his seniority based on when he was first elected to the House.
“Representative Jones has been, is, and will continue to be a voice for his
constituents in the Tennessee House of Representatives,” the suit states.