Court Dismisses Chase’s Lawsuit over Censure by the Virginia Senate


The Eastern District Court of Virginia dismissed Senator Amanda Chase’s (R-Chesterfield) lawsuit over her censure by the Senate. On Wednesday, Judge Robert Payne granted a motion to dismiss filed by Attorney General Mark Herring on behalf of the Senate and the Clerk of the Senate. In April, Herring argued that the Senate and the Clerk have sovereign immunity and that the Senate’s decision to censure is a “non-justiciable” political question.

Chase argued that the censure was a violation of her free speech rights, since it was based on public comments Chase made, including at the U.S. Capitol January 6 rally that turned deadly. But in his decision, Judge Robert Payne agreed with Herring’s argument, finding that the Senate and the Clerk of the Senate have sovereign immunity from civil suits. That was enough for him to dismiss the lawsuit without considering if censure is a political question outside the scope of the court. Chase has not announced if she will appeal.

Chase’s lawyer Tim Anderson explained his case against Herring’s motion to dismiss in an April video. He said, “I was like, ‘Where are we supposed to go?’ Where do we complain about an alleged First Amendment violation if we can’t do it here, we can’t do it in the state court, where do you get relief?”

According to a press release, Herring’s answer is that it’s a political issue that is up to the voters, not the court.

In his argument, he said, “Because censure is fundamentally a political proceeding conducted by a legislative body, plaintiff’s remedy for any alleged wrongs must be a political one rather than ‘a public fight in a court of law.’ As the Supreme Court explained in a similar suit alleging legislative malfeasance, ‘[s]elf-discipline and the voters must be the ultimate reliance for discouraging or correcting [any] abuses.'”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network.  Email tips to [email protected].

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