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GOP Members’ Suit Against Pelosi Over House Mask Mandate Tossed

March 10, 2022, 2:09 AM

Republican lawmakers who sued Speaker Nancy Pelosi over a mask mandate on the House floor and fines incurred for violating the mandate, had their suit dismissed by a federal judge in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), said they were fined for entering the House to vote without wearing masks in May 2021. The representatives said they wanted to engage in a “protest against the double standard being enforced,” and to demonstrate “the well-founded beliefs " they shared that mask wearing “is not scientifically based” and “not necessary for the vaccinated or naturally immune.”

Each was fined $500 for the violation. They sued Pelosi in in July 2021, alleging violations of their free speech rights, as well as of the 27th Amendment. The fine “explicitly violates the prohibition against salary reductions” in that amendment, they said.

Judge Reggie B. Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia tossed the case Wednesday.

The lawmakers’ compensation, as defined in the amendment, isn’t varied by the deduction of the mask fines from their paychecks, Walton said. Instead, the fines impact pay based only “conditionally and indirectly” on the representatives’ own behavior.

Walton also rejected the argument that the mask fines punished House members for “contrary viewpoint-based symbolic speech.”

The reasons underlying the mask policy and the fine are unrelated to suppressing the messages the lawmakers wanted to convey by refusing to wear masks, Walton said. Both the mask policy and fines were put in place based on Pelosi’s “responsibility to ensure the protection of Member and staff safety and health during proceedings,” which “is of paramount importance, particularly in the midst of a pandemic.”

As to the plaintiffs’ claim of “recent scientific findings that the use of face coverings has no appreciable effect on slowing or halting the spread of COVID-19,” the judge said 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.

Siri & Glimstad LLP, Bruns, Connell, Vollmar & Armstrong LLC, and Garza Law Firm PA represent the plaintiffs.

The case is Massie v. Pelosi, D.D.C., No. 1:21-cv-02023, 3/9/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maeve Allsup in San Francisco at mallsup@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Meghashyam Mali at mmali@bloombergindustry.com