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Linert v. MacDonald

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

September 11, 2017

Barbara Linert, et al., Respondents,
v.
Michelle MacDonald, Relator, Office of Administrative Hearings, Respondent.

         Office of Administrative Hearings File No. OAH 71-0320-33929

          John M. Baker, Katherine M. Swenson, Karl C. Procaccini, Christopher L. Schmitter, Greene Espel PLLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondents Barbara Linert, et al.)

          Erick G. Kaardal, Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for relator)

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent Office of Administrative Hearings)

          Considered and decided by Bjorkman, Presiding Judge; Cleary, Chief Judge; and Bratvold, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Minn. Stat. § 211B.02 (2016), which prohibits candidates from knowingly making false claims of support or endorsement, is not facially overbroad in violation of the First Amendment.

          OPINION

          BJORKMAN, JUDGE.

         Relator challenges an order issued by the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) determining that she violated Minn. Stat. § 211B.02, arguing OAH lacked jurisdiction and that the statute is unconstitutionally overbroad. We affirm.

         FACTS

         In 2016, relator Michelle MacDonald was a candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court. During her campaign, she sought the endorsement of the Republican Party of Minnesota (the RPM), which had endorsed her during her unsuccessful 2014 campaign. Prior to the RPM's 2016 state convention, MacDonald was interviewed by the party's judicial-election committee. The committee is authorized to recommend candidates for endorsement by the RPM but does not itself endorse candidates. The committee voted 20-2 to recommend MacDonald's endorsement to the RPM. The RPM ultimately decided not to endorse any candidate in the Minnesota Supreme Court race. MacDonald therefore did not receive the RPM's endorsement.

         On October 18, 2016, the Star Tribune published a "Voter Guide" with profiles of candidates running for various state offices, including MacDonald. The profile was based on information submitted by MacDonald. The "Endorsements" section indicated that MacDonald received an endorsement from "GOP's Judicial Selection Committee 2016." On October 21, MacDonald requested that the claimed endorsement be removed from her candidate profile. The Star Tribune removed the endorsement.

         Respondents Barbara Linert and Steven Timmer (Linert) subsequently filed a complaint with OAH. They alleged that, in claiming the judicial-election committee endorsed her, MacDonald violated Minn. Stat. § 211B.02. An administrative-law judge (ALJ) found probable cause to believe that MacDonald violated the statute. Following an evidentiary hearing, a panel of three ALJs determined that MacDonald violated the statute by knowingly claiming ...


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