Judge tosses lawsuit over Virginia state senator’s censure

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday sided with the state of Virginia and tossed a lawsuit filed by state Sen. Amanda Chase over her censure by the Virginia Senate.

Chase, a far-right-wing conservative state senator often at odds with even fellow Republicans, filed the lawsuit in February, a few days after her colleagues passed the censure resolution on a bipartisan vote, denouncing her for a “pattern of unacceptable conduct.”

Chase was seeking a declaratory judgment that the censure violated her First Amendment rights and wanted the censure expunged and her seniority restored. Her attorney, GOP legal activist Tim Anderson, argued the censure was a stain on her candidacy for governor. Chase was one of seven Republicans competing for the party’s nomination, but GOP delegates chose businessman Glenn Youngkin as the nominee on May 8.

Chase has been accused of voicing support for those who participated in storming the U.S. Capitol. She herself attended a rally shortly before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol but was not part of the group that later stormed the building. Chase also previously called for martial law to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The Senate’s censure resolution said she had “exhibited conduct unbecoming of a Senator during her terms in office by displaying a disregard for civility in discourse with colleagues, making false and misleading statements both in committee and on the Senate floor, and displaying a disregard for the significance of her duty to the citizens of the Commonwealth as an elected representative in the Senate of Virginia.”

It also said Chase, who has refused to wear a mask amid the pandemic and sits on the Senate floor behind a large plastic barrier, has “undermined the seriousness of the pandemic by stating, ‘I don’t do COVID.’”

U.S. District Judge Robert Payne agreed with Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring that the two defendants named by Chase — the Virginia Senate and the Clerk of the Senate — are immune from the lawsuit. Payne cited a 1998 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said it is well established that federal, state and regional legislators are entitled to absolute immunity from civil liability for their legislative activities.

The state also argued in its motion to dismiss the lawsuit that Chase’s claims were a political question and not for a court to decide. Herring said the Senate “acted entirely consistently with its own rules when considering and approving the resolution of censure.”
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