Sen. Amanda Chase argues last week’s censure vote violated her rights.
RICHMOND-The Virginia Senate faces a federal lawsuit. State Sen. Amanda Chase, through her attorney Tim Anderson, filed in U.S. District Court Monday. The document claims the Senate violated Chase’s constitutional rights last week, when they voted to censure her.
“[Chase] 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,” says a statement from Anderson’s office. “The issuance of a censure, issued by the Virginia Senate, was unlawful and contrary to the Plaintiff’s Constitutional rights.”
Specifically, Chase and Anderson argue the Senate violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. As a result, she “suffered a loss in Senate seniority and was demoted to a rank equivalent to that of a newly elected senator,” the lawsuit claims. Before the censure, the Senate referred to Chase as the senior senator from Chesterfield. Now her title in the Senate is the junior senator from Chesterfield. That’s what the lawsuit refers to.
The lawsuit also argues a censure vote damages her run for governor.
“The censure not only affects the Plaintiff in her official capacity as an elected senator but also is a public rebuke of [her] character,” the lawsuit states. “Such a rebuke has negatively impacted the Plaintiff in her candidacy for higher elected office.”
Why the 14th Amendment?
The 14th Amendment grants citizens the right to due process. Anderson argues in the lawsuit that the Senate didn’t follow proper procedure. That came up during the Jan. 27 censure hearing as well.
In the hearing, State Sen. Steve Newman (R-Bedford) argued the Senate shouldn’t be voting yet. He felt the resolution needed to go back to the Privileges and Elections Committee because of multiple changes.
The original resolution censured Chase “for fomenting insurrection against the United States”, as well as failure to uphold her oath of office and conduct unbecoming a senator. Last week, State Sen. John Bell removed the insurrection line to protect Chase’s right to free speech.
But the amended resolution expanded the complaint. Rather than focusing only on what Chase said Jan. 6, it detailed a series of “incendiary events” involving the senator, dating back to 2019. And that, Newman said, was the problem. He pointed out that Senate rules require the Elections Committee to investigate each claim and then report on them. They didn’t do that for the additional changes in the amended version. Bell introduced the amended version on the Senate floor, without any committee involvement.
In that Jan. 27 hearing, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax agreed the resolution was out of order and should go back to committee. However, a majority vote can overrule the President of the Senate’s decision. Nearly the entire Senate voted to overrule the decision, pushing forward to a final vote.
“Deliberate and intentional violation of established rules and protocols regarding public censure violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Anderson argues in the lawsuit.
What Are They Asking For?
The goal of the lawsuit is to get the censure vote excluded from the official journal of the Virginia Senate. Chase wants the court to state the Senate violated her First Amendment rights and declare that “the Plaintiff did not engage in disorderly behavior.”
A censure is basically a formal statement of disapproval. There are no penalties, no one is removed from office. It’s just a document saying at least a majority of the group disagree with your actions.
The actions listed in the censure resolution start with a March 22, 2019 incident where Chase criticized a Capitol Police officer for not giving her access to a restricted parking area in front of the Virginia Capitol building.
“The report of the incident indicates that Senator Chase addressed the officer profanely and made offensive remarks regarding the Clerk of the Senate,” the resolution says.
Also, the resolution points out Chase posted on social media that victims of sexual assault were to blame for not fighting off their attackers. At the time, she wrote “it’s those who are naive and unprepared that end [up] raped.”
Beyond that, Chase told her social media followers after the 2020 presidential election that “we are at war. The Democratic Party hijacked our 2020 Presidential Election and [has] committed treason.”
The final issue stems from the attack on the US Capitol Jan. 6. In Facebook posts and videos, Chase called the people involved “patriots who love their country.”
“When given the opportunity to specifically denounce and repudiate those individuals at the January 6 riot….Senator Chase declined to do so,” the resolution said.
Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].