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Michael Brodkorb and Allison Mann are co-authors of the website (File photo: Kevin Featherly)

Michelle MacDonald loses defamation case

Attorney Michelle MacDonald has lost her bid for summary judgment in her defamation suit against blogger, author and political operative Michael Brodkorb.

Instead, Ramsey County Judge Richard H. Kyle Jr. on Friday granted Brodkorb’s motion for summary judgment, effectively ending the case.

In his 25-page ruling, Kyle denied there was merit to any of the claims made against Brodkorb for “defamation per se” or “defamation by implication.”

MacDonald sued the writer and his website,, saying it violated the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics by repeatedly defaming her.

The site covers the attorney’s alleged involvement in a family dispute that led to two teenage girls being hidden by their mother on a rural Minnesota ranch for 944 days. Brodkorb and co-author Allison Mann subsequently published a book about the case, “The Girls Are Gone,” but it played no role in the trial.

MacDonald claimed the website made repeated “false and defamatory” references to her as a “person of interest” in the missing-girls case. It also alleged that the site repeatedly published a “false image” of her “as if a mugshot.” A third count in the suit involves a 2013 traffic stop that she claimed Brodkorb has misrepresented publicly as DWI conviction.

Kyle disagreed with MacDonald on all those counts.

While the judge was unable to establish based on the record that MacDonald was a person of interest in the case, he ruled that Brodkorb reasonably believed she was, based on his reporting and his contacts with Lakeville police. Separately, Lakeville police confirmed as much to Minnesota Lawyer, as well.

The judge said that Brodkorb never falsely related that she was convicted of DWI—she wasn’t—but only that she was once arrested on suspicion of DWI. She was not convicted of the offense.

As to the photo of MacDonald that Brodkorb published, the judge acknowledged it possibly was unflattering. But he found that Brodkorb’s website never described it as a “booking photo” or “mugshot”—though the blogger later identified it as such in a court affidavit. Minnesota Lawyer obtained the same image from the Dakota County Sheriff’s Department, where it was on file as a booking photo.

Kyle further ruled that MacDonald—who has run for a seat on the Supreme Court several times, including in 2018—is a public figure subject to the heightened “actual malice” standard, adopted in the 1964 Times v. Sullivan U.S. Supreme Court decision, that she needed to meet in order to prevail.

“It’s further validation to us, Allison and myself, that this should have never been filed in the first place,” Brodkorb said in a brief interview about the ruling.

Minnesota Lawyer has reached out to MacDonald for comment and will update this story if we hear back.


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