Shelby County Commission reappoints Justin Pearson to state House seat, days after expulsion

By: - April 12, 2023 1:44 pm

Justin J. Pearson, Tennessee State House Representative for District 86 Monday, March 6, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn. (Photo By Karen Pulfer Focht)

The Shelby County Commission voted unanimously to reappoint Justin Pearson to the state House seat Republicans expelled him from six days ago.

House Republicans kicked out Pearson and Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, for violating the chamber’s rules on decorum when two men took over the chamber’s speaking podium to protest a lack of action by lawmakers on gun violence. Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, joined the duo in the floor protests, but Republicans fell one vote short of expelling her.

The floor protests followed a mass shooting in Nashville where three adults and three children were killed at Nashville private school on March 27.

Republicans chose to expel Pearson and Jones because they used a megaphone to lead chants with a crowd gathered in the House gallery. Over a thousand protesters descended on the State Capitol that day.

The floor protests forced the House into a 40-minute recess.

The floor protests occurred on March 30, and House Republicans held expulsion hearings one week later on April 6.

Pearson’s reappoint comes days after the Metro Nashville Council reappointed Jones to his seat. Only seven of the Shelby County Commission’s 13 members were present for Wednesday’s special-called meeting.

Earlier in the day, Pearson led a rally from National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis to the commission meeting, showing the community support for his reappointment.

Pearson should be able to attend Thursday’s House floor session in Nashville.

Republican leaders said they would welcome back Pearson and Jones but emphasized they had to follow the House rules.

Pearson and Jones must run in separate special elections later this year to regain their seats. It will be Pearson’s second election in less than a year. In a special election earlier this year, he won his current Memphis district seat, which was previously held by the now-deceased Barabara Cooper.

This story was originally produced by the Tennessee Lookout which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus, including the Daily Montanan, supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.

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Adam Friedman
Adam Friedman

Adam Friedman is a reporter with the Tennessee Lookout. He has a particular love for data and using numbers to explain all kinds of topics. If you have a story idea, he'd love to hear it. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 615-249-8509.