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Loomer v. Tlaib

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 16, 2019

Laura Loomer, Plaintiff,
Rashida Harbi Tlaib, Defendant.


          David S. Doty, Judge

         This matter is before the court upon the motion to dismiss by defendant Rashida Harbi Tlaib. Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the motion is granted and the case is dismissed with leave to file certain claims in state court.


         This dispute arises out of an interaction between pro se[1]plaintiff Laura Loomer and now-Congresswoman Tlaib in August 2018. Loomer is an investigative journalist who focuses on “issues, news, and events of concern to Jewish-Americans, terrorism, and other matters of extreme public importance.” Compl. ¶ 9. At the time of the incident, Tlaib was a candidate for the United States House of Representatives in Michigan's 13th Congressional District. Id. ¶ 32. On August 11, 2018, then-candidate Tlaib attended a campaign event with fellow congressional candidate Ilhan Omar in Minneapolis. Id. ¶ 18. The incident was captured on video.[2]

         As shown in the video, Tlaib held Loomer's hands while they greeted each other. Loomer then pointedly questioned Tlaib about her position on certain foreign policy issues. Id. ¶¶ 24-30. Loomer alleges that during her questioning, Tlaib “violently grabbed” Loomer's cell phone. Id. ¶ 21. Referencing the video of the incident, Loomer also alleges that Tlaib “physically hit and batter[ed]” her, id. ¶ 67, “physically attacked” her, id. ¶ 75, and “reached out with her hand and struck” her, id. ¶ 76.

         The court has reviewed the video and finds that there were two points of physical contact between the parties. One occurred when Tlaib held Loomer's hand and the other when Tlaib took Loomer's cell phone. Because Loomer does not allege any contact beyond what took place in the video, the court understands Loomer's allegations to be characterizations of those two points of contact.

         On August 22, 2019, Loomer filed this action alleging assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. She claims that she suffered unspecified physical injuries and emotional distress as a result of Tlaib's actions and that she feared “imminent serious bodily injury or death.” Id. ¶¶ 69, 71. She seeks $500, 000 in actual and compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages. Loomer alleges diversity and federal question jurisdiction. Id. ¶¶ 2-3.


         I. Standard of Review

         To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, “‘a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff [has pleaded] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “[L]abels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” are not enough to state a claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         The court liberally construes pro se complaints and will dismiss an action only if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff “can allege no set of facts which would support an exercise of jurisdiction.” Sanders v. United States, 760 F.2d 869, 871 (8th Cir. 1985).

         The court does not consider matters outside the pleadings under Rule 12(b)(6). Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The court may, however, consider matters of public record and materials that are “necessarily embraced by the pleadings.” Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., 186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir. 1999) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Here, the court considers the video of the incident in question, which Loomer incorporates by reference into the complaint and references throughout the complaint. See Bogie v. Rosenberg, 705 F.3d 603, 608-09 (7th Cir. 2013) (upholding the district court's decision on a motion to dismiss to consider a video incorporated into and attached to the complaint and to “weigh[] its contents against the complaint's allegations”); see also Zean v. Fairview Health Servs., 858 F.3d 520, 526 (8th Cir. 2017) (“In general, materials embraced by the complaint include ‘documents whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleadings.'”).[3]

         II. Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)

         Loomer alleges that then-candidate Tlaib violated her rights under the RFRA by “violently attacking” her in an attempt to “shut down her attempts to gather news and inform the public of Rashida ...

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