RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Following through on her threat to pursue legal action, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) is claiming “a civil rights violation” in a federal lawsuit Monday in an effort to have the censure against her removed from public record.
The Republican gubernatorial hopeful told colleagues ahead of the vote that she would seek legal action if she were censured. Chase announced plans in a news release Monday to have her attorney, Tim Anderson of Anderson and Associates in Virginia Beach, file the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia.
“The Plaintiff has received a public censure from the Virginia Senate for speech and expression that is protected under the United States Constitution, namely free speech and political expression. The issuance of a censure, issued by the Virginia Senate, was unlawful and contrary to the Plaintiff’s Constitutional rights,” the release said.
Three GOP state senators voted with Democrats last week to censure Chase for “conduct unbecoming” of a senator, a formal rebuke that does little beyond placing Chase at bottom of the seniority list in the chamber, over comments she made in the aftermath of the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.
State Sen. John Bell (D-Loudoun), with the support of several other Senate Democrats, filed a resolution on Jan. 13 to censure Chase claiming she instigated “insurrection against the United States” during a speech she gave at the “Stop the Steal” rally ahead of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The caucus asserted that the Republican gubernatorial contender helped empower “a failed coup d’état” at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and called on her to resign from office before any resolution was submitted. After deciding not to leave office, the chamber voted 37-1 to strip Chase of her last committee assignment.
“This censure of the Plaintiff violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as the Plaintiff is being singled out and selectively penalized for taking unpopular political positions that the majority of the members of the Virginia Senate disagree with,” the release states. “Deliberate and intentional violation of established rules and protocols regarding public censure violates the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
Sen. Bell eventually filed a substitute resolution on Jan. 26, one that Sen. Chase argued was not germane with the original resolution and should be withdrawn. Chase contended that the substitute was “completely different” in a floor speech and that Bell should have to file another bill. Bell made brief remarks, taking just a few moments of the five minutes allotted.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who presides over the Virginia Senate, ruled that the substitute resolution from Sen. Bell was germane with the original resolution after both Bell and Chase gave their arguments.
“The Substitute Censure involved protected political speech that occurred and arose through Plaintiff’s representation of her constituents; none of the censured speech constituted uncivil behavior in the body that threatened decorum within the Senate,” the lawsuit from Chase claims.
Chase seeks an injunction from one of the defendants, Senate Clerk Susan Clarke Schaar, from permitting the publication of the censure resolution in the Virginia Senate’s official journal and removing it from public record. She also wishes to have her seniority status restored and declarations that the censure violated her constitutional rights.
“The public censure against me was issued by the political elite class of the Senate who disagreed with my political speech and political expressions,” Chase said in an emailed statement to 8News’ Kerri O’Brien. “The First Amendment of the Constitution applies to everyone and you do not lose it when you become an elected official.”
“The majority of the Senate of Virginia believes that collectively they can silence the First Amendment as long as they do it with a group vote,” she added.
Fairfax, as president of the Senate, is the other defendant named in the complaint.
“The right to due process for all is of paramount importance in our system,” Fairfax’s spokesperson said in a statement. “We will await the court’s review of this matter.” Schaar did not immediately respond to 8News’ request seeking comment.