Depositions start Friday, continue through next week
By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
Robin Hensel’s attorney, Larry Frost, indicated Wednesday that Judge Richard Kyle, Duluth, ruled June 24, that members of the Little Falls City Council could be deposed as part of her lawsuit against the city.
In May, Magistrate Judge Leo Brisbois, Duluth, denied a motion to prohibit the deposing of the city of Little Falls’ elected officials, filed by Paul Reuvers, the attorney representing the city of Little Falls in the Hensel lawsuit.
At that time, Reuvers said he filed the motion to prohibit the depositions because, “Elected officials aren’t subject to discovery.”
Reuvers filed an appeal to Brisbois’ decision to Judge Kyle.
In Kyle’s decision, a footnote states that had the Court conducted a review of Brisbois’ order, it would have reached the same result.
Frost filed Hensel’s initial lawsuit in May 2012, in federal court. Hensel’s lawsuit against the city alleges the city violated Hensel’s Constitutional rights to free speech, among other reasons, by requiring her to remove signs placed in her yard saying they were against city ordinance, while failing to request other unlawful signs in the city be removed.
Friday, July 5, Council Member Frank Gosiak was the first to be deposed.
The other depositions will begin Monday, July 8, with former Council Member Urban Otremba. While most of the depositions will begin at 9 a.m. on the scheduled day, Frost said Monday’s deposition of Otremba, will begin at 10 a.m.
“Robin is being arraigned Monday at 8:30 a.m. on the ridiculous criminal disorderly conduct charge, so we had to start later that day,” said Frost.
Tuesday, Council Member Loren Boyum will be deposed; Wednesday, Council Member Jeremy Hanfler and Thursday, Council President Don Klinker,.
Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem, Council Member at Large Brian-Paul Crowder and Council Member LeeAnn Doucette will be deposed before Aug. 9.
“We have a schedule, but because the city adamantly refused to do depos on weekends, we have a stipulated change of depo schedule in front of Judge Brisbois for approval,” said Frost. “Under the existing time allowed to depose the Little Falls deponents, we ‘had’ to use the weekend.”
Regarding Hensel’s hearing on the disorderly conduct charge, Monday, Frost said having Hensel removed from Council Chambers before the June 7 rescheduled City Council meeting, constitutes discrimination based on viewpoint “and maybe some other constitutional violations,” he said.
“Could the city be sued for that too? We think so,” said Frost. “We think that even going there is a vivid demonstration on how far Little Falls will go to keep Robin’s viewpoint, however unpopular, from being presented. In short, evidence for the existing lawsuit."
"While we are disappointed with the court’s decision to allow depositions of the city’s elected officials, we are confident the city will ultimately prevail in this litigation," Reuvers said.
Frost owns Paladin Law in Bloomington and is being assisted in Hensel’s lawsuit against the city by Bruce Fein, a lawyer from Washington, D.C., who specializes in constitutional law.
Reuver’s firm, Iverson, Reuvers, Condon, Bloomington, is retained by the League of Minnesota Cities.