County District Court File No. 62-CV-18-975
M. Lamm Bachman, Tessa A. Mansfield, Foley & Mansfield,
PLLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)
Marshall H. Tanick, Teresa J. Ayling, Meyer Njus Tanick, PA,
Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Bratvold, Presiding Judge; Jesson,
Judge; and Smith, Tracy M., Judge.
legislator's actions must be within the sphere of
legitimate legislative activity in order to warrant
legislative immunity under Minnesota Statutes section 540.13
(2018) or the speech or debate clause of the Minnesota
John Lesch challenges the district court's determination
that he is not entitled to legislative immunity from
respondent Lyndsey Olson's defamation suit stemming from
a letter Lesch wrote to the mayor of St. Paul. We conclude
that the letter is not an act within the sphere of legitimate
legislative activity. Accordingly, we affirm.
John Lesch is the state representative for house district
66B, which includes part of Ramsey County. Respondent Lyndsey
Olson is the current St. Paul City Attorney and has a
background in the Minnesota National Guard.
case arises from a letter that Lesch sent to the newly
elected mayor of St. Paul in early January 2018. In that
letter, Lesch congratulated the mayor on a well organized
inauguration ceremony. Lesch then noted his experience with
previous city administrations regarding lobbying and
indicated his interest in beginning a conversation with the
mayor's lobbying team before the legislative session
began. He then expressed reservations about the mayor's
hiring process for department heads.
noting general apprehension about the mayor's hiring
process, Lesch focused on the mayor's appointment of
Olson as St. Paul City Attorney. Lesch wrote that he was
surprised by the mayor's selection, and that if he had
known Olson was being considered for the position, he
"would have registered grave concerns over her fit for
the office." The letter continued to outline Lesch's
concerns, which included his assertion that his "own
experience with Ms. Olson in the Minnesota National Guard
revealed her to be a prosecutor who would sacrifice justice
in pursuit of a political win-even going so far as to commit
misconduct to do so," and that the Minnesota National
Guard investigated Olson for running a "toxic working
environment." Lesch stated his "great concern"
over "an in-coming City Attorney with a preexisting
track record of integrity questions and management
problems" and expressed his vested interest in the
success of the St. Paul City Attorney's office as a
former member of that office. Lesch then closed his letter by
requesting that the mayor disclose several documents related
to the hiring of Olson, including any information about
investigations of Olson by the Minnesota National Guard and
Olson's disciplinary record.
on Lesch's statements in his letter to the mayor, Olson
filed a lawsuit against Lesch for defamation per se. Lesch
filed a motion to dismiss the action, based in part on his
argument that he is entitled to legislative immunity under
Minnesota Statutes section 540.13 and the speech or debate
clause of the Minnesota Constitution. The district court
concluded that Lesch was not entitled to immunity and denied
his motion to dismiss. Lesch appeals.
Lesch entitled to legislative immunity?
contends that he is entitled to immunity from Olson's
suit pursuant to both Minnesota Statutes section 540.13 and
the speech or debate clause of the Minnesota Constitution,
which provides that, "[f]or any speech or debate in
either house they shall not be questioned in any other
place." Minn. Const. art. IV, § 10. We review the
question of ...