Here is how Virginia Delegate Joe Morrissey may continue to be a sitting member of the General Assembly and may continue on his quest to impose a $15.15 per hour minimum wage upon the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia.[read_more]
Expulsion under the Virginia Constitution only applies to sitting members of the General Assembly. Morrissey resigned and is therefore not a sitting member. Morrissey can’t be excluded from being admitted to the General Assembly because he qualifies for the seat for which he was elected. Once he is sworn into office, according to US Supreme Court precedent (interpreting language identical to the Virginia Constitution), he can’t be excluded from office for behavior which occurred prior to his official swearing in.
Here is the language from the US Supreme Court case Powell vs. McCormack “”[I]t must be said that with practical uniformity the precedents in such cases are to the effect that the House will not expel a Member for reprehensible action prior to his election as a Member, not even for conviction for an offense.”
It is true that in 1876 Virginia House of Delegates member R.D. Ruffin was expelled for embezzling $30 from the House clerk but that was while Ruffin was a House member, unlike Morrissey, who is now just a member elect. So the Ruffin comparison is not a mirror image of the Morrissey case.
The comparison below between the US and Virginia Constitutions shows the language to be almost precisely the same. So should this matter end up in Federal court the likelihood is that the Powell vs. McCormack rationale would apply.
Virginia Constitution, Art. IV, Section 7. “Each house shall judge of the election, qualification, and returns of its members, may punish them for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds of its elected membership, may expel a member.”
US Constitution, Article I, Section 5 ““Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member”
Morrissey is either a genius (highly dubious) or stumbled upon the truth. We shall see.