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Boquist v. Oregon State Senate President Peter Courtney

United States District Court, D. Oregon

January 7, 2020

BRIAN J. BOQUIST, Plaintiff,
OREGON STATE SENATE PRESIDENT PETER COURTNEY, in his official capacity, SENATOR FLOYD PROZANSKI, in his official capacity as Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Conduct, SENATOR JAMES MANNING, in his official capacity as member of the Special Senate Conduct Committee, DEXTER JOHNSON, in his official capacity as Legislative Counsel, DARON HILL, in his official capacity as Legislative Administration Director, JESSICA KNIELING, in her official capacity as interim Human Resources Director, BRENDA BAUMGART & MELISSA HEALY, in their official capacity as contract investigators to the Oregon State Senate, and all in their official capacities in the Legislative Branch of the State of Oregon, Defendants.


          Michael McShane, United States District Judge

         This case stems from a political impasse in the Oregon State Senate. Eleven Republican senators, wanting to avoid a quorum vote, brought the legislative function to a halt by leaving the Oregon State Capitol. Oregon Governor Kate Brown ordered State Police to arrest the absent senators, including Plaintiff Brian Boquist, and bring them back to the Capitol. Governor Brown also imposed a $500 fine for each day a given senator was absent during the legislative session.

         State Police did not arrest Plaintiff, but Governor Brown did levy a $3, 500 fine against him. Plaintiff paid the fine, but it was ultimately vacated and his money was returned. Due to several statements Plaintiff made during the ordeal that some perceived as threatening, Senate leadership determined that Plaintiff may only enter the Capitol if he provides a 12-hour notice of his intent to do so.

         Plaintiff now brings this action against Defendants-who are eight individual employees or elected officials in the Legislative Branch of the State of Oregon-alleging that the 12-hour notice requirement is unlawful and Defendants violated his state and federal constitutional rights. Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)-or, in the alternative, for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56-arguing that Plaintiff fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted. Defs.' Mot. 1-2, ECF No. 8. Because Plaintiff fails to establish that Defendants' actions were unlawful, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 8) is GRANTED.


         In May 2019, the Republican caucus of the Oregon State Senate participated in a walkout. Pl.'s First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 44, 86, ECF No. 6 (“FAC”); Defs.' Mot. 3. As a result, the absent legislators faced $500 per day in fines and potential arrest, imprisonment, and investigation. Defs.' Mot. 3. On July 19, 2019, Plaintiff, an elected Republican state senator, told Senate President Peter Courtney, “Mr. President, and [sic] if you send the [S]tate [P]olice to get me, Hell's coming to visit you personally.” FAC ¶ 46; Defs.' Mot. 3. During the walkout, Plaintiff said that State Police should “send bachelors and come heavily armed.” Defs.' Mot. 2. Ultimately, none of the missing senators were arrested and any fines that were levied against them were vacated. Id. at 3. However, Plaintiff was disciplined for what some perceived as threatening language and his access to the Capitol was conditioned on him giving 12-hour advance notice of his presence to the Secretary of the Senate. Id. Although it is not always clear from the Amended Complaint which of the Defendants did what, Plaintiff alleges that some of the Defendants are responsible for the disciplinary order regulating his access to the Capitol. Plaintiff also alleges that some Defendants are secretly investigating him and have denied him access to public records related to this investigation. FAC ¶¶ 8, 11, 13, 15, 17, 70, 75. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that some of the Defendants are responsible for the orders to fine and arrest him. Id. at ¶ 11-13, 15.

         Plaintiff brought this action on July 26, 2019 and filed an Amended Complaint on September 24. See Pl.'s Compl., ECF No. 1; FAC. Plaintiff alleges violations of: (1) his First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution; (2) his rights under Article I, Section 26 and Article IV, Section 9 of the Oregon Constitution; and (3) 25 C.F.R. §§ 11.404 and 11.448. FAC ¶¶ 5, 10, 12, 13. Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgments stating: (1) that he has free, unfettered access to the Capitol; (2) that the investigation of him is unconstitutional; (3) that Defendants violated his First Amendment rights; (4) that Defendants violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment due process rights; (5) that he is free from fines without due process; (6) that he is free from arrest without due process; and (7) what the definition of “compel” is under the Oregon State Constitution. FAC ¶¶ 105-25.


         To survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter that “state[s] a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible on its face when the factual allegations allow the court to infer the defendant's liability based on the alleged conduct. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009). The factual allegations must present more than “the mere possibility of misconduct.” Id. at 678.

         When considering a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all allegations of material fact as true and construe those facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Burget v. Lokelani Bernice Pauahi Bishop Trust, 200 F.3d 661, 663 (9th Cir. 2000). However, the court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. If the complaint is dismissed, leave to amend should be granted unless “the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” Doe v. United States, 58 F.3d 494, 497 (9th Cir. 1995).


         I. Non-Legislator Defendants

         Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim against Defendants Dexter Johnson, Daron Hill, Jessica Knieling, Brenda Baumgart, and Melissa Healy.

         Ms. Knieling is the Oregon State Legislature's Interim Human Resources Director. FAC ¶ 33; Defs.' Mot. 7. Mr. Hill is Ms. Knieling's immediate supervisor and the Legislative Administration Director. FAC ¶¶ 33, 36. Mr. Johnson is Legislative Counsel for the State of Oregon. Id. at ΒΆ 32; Defs.' Mot. 6. Ms. Baumgart is a contract investigator who works for Stoel Rives LLP. FAC ...

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