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Bar Buzz: MacDonald says she will appeal two rulings

Kevin Featherly//April 22, 2019//

Bar Buzz: MacDonald says she will appeal two rulings

Kevin Featherly//April 22, 2019//

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Lawyer and former state Supreme Court candidate Michelle MacDonald is not prepared to take “case dismissed” for an answer.

Michelle MacDonald
Michelle MacDonald

In early March, MacDonald lost two court cases. On Wednesday, she said she will appeal both.

In the first case, MacDonald’s Ramsey County District Court defamation lawsuit against blogger and one-time political operative Michael Brodkorb was dismissed on summary judgment. That was on March 1.

On March 4, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed a federal district court’s summary judgment against MacDonald in a separate case.

That one stemmed from MacDonald’s 2013 arrest for contempt of court after she took photos of a deputy in a Dakota County courtroom while representing a client in a child custody hearing.

MacDonald asserted a variety of constitutional and state-law violations in the federal case, but none was upheld. She said Wednesday that she will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It got dismissed based on immunities,” MacDonald said of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling. “Which, the immunities are pretty much a lie. But that’s what got it dismissed.”

MacDonald appears to be referring to the District Court’s ruling against her Fourth Amendment claim of qualified immunity, which the 8th Circuit upheld. But that was only one of a bevy of claims by MacDonald—false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and battery were a few others—in the federal case. All were dismissed.

In the defamation suit, Ramsey County District Court Judge Richard H. Kyle, Jr., granted Brodkorb a summary judgment dismissing MacDonald’s claims of “defamation per se” and “defamation by implication.”

Those accusations stemmed from Brodkorb’s blog posts about MacDonald, as well as his publication of a photo taken after her 2013 arrest—an image MacDonald continues to insist is not a booking photo.

“He kept publishing that picture and I am very opposed to that picture,” MacDonald said Wednesday. “I know that it’s defamatory, because he puts it out as if it is a mugshot.”

In his ruling, Kyle disagreed. While the photo was unflattering, he wrote, Brodkorb’s website never actually described it as a “booking photo” or “mugshot”—though the blogger later identified it as such in a court affidavit. Minnesota Lawyer later obtained the same image from the Dakota County Sheriff’s Department, where it was on file as a booking photo.

Neither appeal has yet been filed. MacDonald has a 60-day window to appeal the March 1 Ramsey County district court ruling. She has 90 days to petition for a writ of certiorari following the U.S. District Court of Appeals’ March 4 decision.

MacDonald said she will appeal Kyle’s decision partly on grounds that she was not allowed to properly build her case.

“I don’t know if there has ever been a case that was dismissed on summary judgment where a litigant has not been allowed to answer the complaint or do discovery,” MacDonald said. “So that’s the legal grounds.”

“She’s lost once before in court,” Brodkorb responded when reached for comment Wednesday. “She is going to lose again.”

Said Brodkorb, “Her continual use of the court system in the manner in which she has—while she is under investigation by the lawyer’s board—is going to further put her license in jeopardy.”

Brodkorb was referring to a complaint he filed against MacDonald with the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board in August. It is based, in part, on what he called a false report of “criminal defamation,” which MacDonald once filed against him with Eagan police.

On April 10, Brodkorb received a letter from the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board informing him that its investigation into his complaint is still underway.

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