Justin Jones sworn back into House after expulsion

“This is what democracy looks like,” Justin Pearson said before Jones was sworn in.
WSMV's Danielle Jackson reports.
Published: Apr. 10, 2023 at 3:23 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 11, 2023 at 4:58 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – Formerly expelled state Rep. Justin Jones was sworn back into the House Monday after Metro Council unanimously voted to appoint him as state representative of District 52.

Jones, along with former Rep. Justin Pearson, were expelled Thursday after they led a protest on the House floor to advocate for stricter gun laws. Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, was also up for expulsion but survived the House vote.

While Democrats say the protest was protected under the First Amendment, Republicans have argued the protest was a political stunt and took attention away from the victims of the mass shooting.

“The unthinkable occurred on the floor of our State Capitol,” the Tennessee Democratic Party said in a statement following the expulsions. “Two duly elected Democratic State Representatives were expelled from their elected positions by the Republican House majority. Their expulsion sets a dangerous new precedent for political retribution. The day that a majority can simply expel a member of the opposing party without legitimate cause threatens the fabric of democracy in our state and creates a reckless roadmap for GOP-controlled state legislatures across the nation. This is not only unacceptable but a complete breakdown of our political system.”

“Their adolescence and immature behavior brought dishonor to the Tennessee General Assembly as they admitted to knowingly breaking the rules,” the Tennessee Republican Party said in a statement after the expulsion. “Actions have consequences, and we applaud House Republicans for having the conviction to protect the rules, the laws, and the prestige of the State of Tennessee.”

Metro Council voted Monday, 36-0, to put Jones back in his House seat. Council members were overwhelmed with emails from constituents who believed Jones was wrongfully expelled from the House. So much so, many lawmakers set automatic replies to constituents that said, “if you are contacting me regarding my vote to reinstate Rep Justin Jones, he has my vote at Council on Monday.”

Right before Jones was sworn back into the House, former House Representative Justin Pearson D-Memphis said over a megaphone: “This is what democracy looks like.”

The vote by Metro Council puts Jones back in his House seat until a special election can be held to fill it.

House Majority Leader William Lambert, R-Portland, and Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, released a statement before the Metro Council vote, saying if Jones and Pearson are reappointed, they will be welcomed into the House.

“Tennessee’s constitution provides a pathway back for expulsion. Should any expelled member be reappointed, we will welcome them. Like everyone else, they are expected to follow the rules of the House as well as state law,” Lambert and Faison said. “Our state endured a horrific tragedy on March 27 that will never be forgotten. We continue to mourn the six lives lost as we pray for healing. We remain focused on solutions that ensure every child and parent feels safe in every community across the Volunteer state.”

Mickell Lowery, Chairman of the Shelby County Board of Commission, call a special meeting Wednesday to discuss and vote whether to reinstate Pearson into the House.

WSMV4's Brendan Tierney reports.

The meeting starts at 1:30 p.m.