Rep. Justin Jones files lawsuit against House Speaker Sexton, claims rights were violated

The lawsuit claims the Tennessee House illegally expelled Jones for exercising his right to free speech.
Published: Oct. 3, 2023 at 11:17 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – Tennessee Rep. Justin Jones has filed a federal lawsuit against House Speaker Cameron Sexton, among other House administrators, for allegedly blocking his right to free speech.

The 46-page lawsuit filed in federal court on Monday claims Sexton, House clerk Tammy Letzler, House Chief Sergeant at Arms Bobby Trotter and Daniel Hicks, an assistant chief clerk in the House, blocked Jones from “expressing views on critical issues that he was elected to express.”

“This censorship violates the constitutions of Tennessee and of the United States and is an anathema to a free, democratic society,” the lawsuit reads. “By this action, Representative Jones seeks relief for these illegal and unconstitutional actions to silence his and other voices in the Tennessee Legislature, including injunctive relief to stop further violations of his rights to speak and to participate in the legislative process.”

The lawsuit also claims the Tennessee House illegally expelled Jones for exercising his right to free speech. Jones, Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, and Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, all faced expulsion after their protests following the shooting at The Covenant School, where three children and three staff members were gunned down by a former student.

The lawmakers were among swarms of Tennesseans who went to the capitol to persuade lawmakers to pass substantial legislation that would help reduce gun violence. In the end, Jones and Pearson were expelled and Johnson was cleared.

House Republican lawmakers claimed the protest disrupted the legislative process and therefore, violated House rules, justifying the expulsions.

“When these three lawmakers took to the well of the House in an attempt to be heard on this issue, Speaker Sexton shut down the House proceedings entirely, forced the removal of Representative Jones and his two colleagues from the Legislature, and then led an illegal and unconstitutional effort to expel them—all in an effort to quash legitimate and open discussion about the use of weapons of war in murdering six Nashville citizens,” the lawsuit reads.

Jones and Pearson were later voted back into their seats. In the lawsuit, Jones requested a trial judge to declare that Sexton and the House’s expulsion violated the Constitution and that his expulsion won’t have any effect on his rights, privileges, and entitlements, including loss of seniority. Jones also seeks an award of compensatory damages.

Read the full lawsuit below.