Citing legislative and sovereign immunity, a federal judge Thursday tossed out a suit against the Virginia Senate and its clerk filed by Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, in response to her January censure.
Chase's complaint alleged violations of her freedom of speech and due process rights as well as the Senate's own rules. She claimed the censure "caused substantial mental anguish, tarnished reputation," that affected her ability as an elected senator and as a candidate for higher office.
The Senate approved the censure 24-9, with three Republicans voting in favor and six other GOP senators declining to vote. The censure stripped her of seniority, demoted her to junior senator from Chesterfield and found her guilty of "conduct unbecoming" of a member of the Senate.
The censure stemmed from controversial behavior by Chase that included her public confrontation with a Virginia Capitol Police officer in 2019 over a restricted parking spot next to Capitol Square in Richmond.
In a motion filed by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, the defendants asked U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne to dismiss the suit, arguing that he lacked jurisdiction to decide what was a political question and that the Senate was immune. Payne agreed on the immunity argument.
"The Court finds that the Senate of Virginia is entitled to sovereign immunity and that the Clerk of the Senate is entitled to both sovereign immunity and absolute legislative immunity," wrote Payne in an 18-page memorandum opinion.
Payne added: "It is well established that federal, state, and regional legislators are entitled to absolute immunity from civil liability for their legislative activities."
In a text message on Thursday, Chase said: "No comment until I return from vacation on Monday.”
The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus said in a prepared statement Thursday that, "For a Senator who said she would 'wear the censure as a badge of honor' to then claim mental anguish is a two-faced attempt to do what is politically expedient instead of what is morally right."
"Sen. Chase also sought to completely remove any record of the censure from Senate records which would constitute censorship, while she falsely claims she has been censored by her colleagues," the caucus said.