WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Washington has thrown out a lawsuit filed by Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and two other conservative lawmakers challenging the fines they faced for refusing to wear masks on the House floor.
Greene joined U.S. Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Ralph Norman of South Carolina in filing a court challenge in July hoping to recoup penalties they faced after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed through new enforcement rules for an existing mask mandate.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton wrote in a Wednesday ruling that the case had no merit because Pelosi and the staffers who enforced the fines by docking lawmakers pay could not be sued for decisions made in their government capacity.
Walton also disagreed with the plaintiffs’ arguments that the mask fines amounted to an illegal reduction in their annual salary. The 27th Amendment prohibits any law from changing members’ compensation before the next election.
Walton disregarded the claim that the mask fines violated the plaintiffs’ First Amendment protections of free speech, which their lawyers claimed should be invoked because the three lawmakers chose not to wear masks as a form of protest.
Greene, Massie and Norman have filed an appeal.
During a December hearing, Walton repeatedly pointed out that the mask mandates were steps taken to preserve the safety of lawmakers, staff and police officers during a pandemic. The three plaintiffs sat on the front row during the hearing; all wore masks in compliance with courthouse rules.
Walton wrote that on the days in May 2021 that the lawmakers chose not to wear masks while casting votes that the total COVID-19 death toll in America had risen to 588,764.
Contrary to the plaintiffs’ assertion that the use of face coverings did not halt the spread of the coronavirus, “the consensus within the scientific community is clear that masks —and, in particular, well-fitting, protective masks — are effective in slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, as demonstrated by the very articles cited by the plaintiffs in their Complaint,” he wrote.
While Massie and Norman’s protest was limited, Greene continued to show up on the House floor without a mask for the rest of 2021 and into 2022. She eventually accumulated more than $100,000 in fines that were docked from her salary, which is $174,000 a year.
Georgia U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde eventually joined the protest and spent several months refusing to wear a mask on the floor. While he did not join the lawsuit over those fines, he has a separate suit pending for penalties he also faced for refusing to go through metal detectors before casting votes. Those rules were implemented after the U.S. Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2020.
The Capitol’s attending physician dropped the mask mandate shortly before President Joe Biden’s March 1 State of the Union address.
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