(The Center Square) – Tennessee state Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville has filed a federal lawsuit claiming House Speaker Cameron Sexton and other prevented him from speaking freely and conducting his role in the Legislature when he was expelled from the body earlier this year and then silenced in an August special session.
“The people of District 52 deserve to have their voices heard without the threat of undemocratic silencing and retaliation,” Jones said of the lawsuit, which named Sexton, House Clerk Tammy Letzler, Sergeant of Arms Bobby Trotter and Assistant Chief Clerk Daniel Hicks.
Jones’ lawsuit claims Tennessee House leadership refused to address “devastating gun violence” that led to a shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School and on April 6 he was “illegally expelled” for exercising his right to free speech.
“When these three lawmakers took to the well of the House in an attempt to be heard on the 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 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 said.
A shooter killed three students and three staff at Nashville’s Covenant School this spring, leading to a legislative push from parents from the school.
Jones was the subject of a new House rule during an August special session on public safety where Sexton ruled him off topic in his discussion of a bill twice and then the body voted to silence him for the day.
Jones said Sexton “imposed and abused draconian and unconstitutional procedural rules” to silence him on the day he planned to call for a vote of no confidence on the speaker.
In the lawsuit, Jones asks the court to rule his expulsion and the special session House rules unconstitutional while reinstating his committee assignments and seniority along with compensatory damages and attorney’s fees.