Chase sues Senate over censure, claims civil rights violation
GOP gubernatorial hopeful seeks injunction in federal court
A week after being censured by the state Senate, Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield County, is suing the legislative body and its clerk for violating Chase’s civil rights, including her First Amendment right to freedom of speech, she announced Monday.
Virginia Beach attorney Tim Anderson said Monday he has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Chase in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia. The suit seeks an injunction to prevent Senate Clerk Susan Clarke Schaar from publishing last week’s censure resolution in the official journal of the Senate of Virginia.
Chase, who is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, also seeks a declaratory judgment that the passed censure resolution — which focused on Chase’s speech and behavior over the past two years — is in violation of her right to free speech under the First Amendment. The suit also seeks to force Schaar to expunge the record of an earlier version of the censure, which argued that Chase engaged in “fomenting insurrection” by participating in a pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, a few hours before Trump supporters participated in a violent insurrectionist breach of the U.S. Capitol. She left the area before the siege and had left Washington altogether by mid-afternoon.
In her statement Monday, Chase says that the censure resolution against her, which passed 24-9 last week, “was unlawful and contrary to the plaintiff’s constitutional rights,” including the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Chase contends she “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 suit also seeks a reinstatement of Chase’s seniority rank, which was removed after the resolution passed, although with little material effect because Chase had already been stripped of her committee assignments.
Last week, as the Senate was considering the censure — its first since 1987 — Chase said she would sue if it passed. Sen. John J. Bell, D-Loudoun County, was chief sponsor of the resolution, which censured Chase for “failure to uphold her oath of office, misuse of office and conduct unbecoming of a senator” for multiple controversies since 2019, including an argument with a Virginia Capitol police officer over parking, several social media posts that were broadly criticized for attacking Black people, rape victims and state Democrats, as well as other posts that shared disinformation about COVID-19 and the 2020 presidential election, which Chase contended was “stolen” from former President Donald Trump.
Chase argued on the Senate floor that she was covered by the First Amendment for her statements and called the censure resolution, which was supported by three Republicans and all 21 Democrats, as a “politically motivated hit job” related to her campaign for governor.
Anderson, the attorney representing Chase, also represented Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, in his lawsuit late last year seeking physical space to meet with constituents during the 2021 General Assembly session, during which the Senate has been convening at the Science Museum of Virginia due to COVID concerns.
Schaar said she had no comment on the case Monday, and the Senate’s counsel has not yet been determined.