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Brodkorb lawsuit could face limits on naming Capitol affairs

His lawyer, Greg Walsh, discusses Michael Brodkorb's complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

There could be court-ordered limits on any steamy tales of love and lust in Capitol corridors, as threatened by the sex discrimination case that Michael Brodkorb has brought against the state and the Minnesota Senate.

To prove his lawsuit, Brodkorb, former communications director for the Senate Republican caucus, says he’s prepared to name names. He plans to identify similarly situated female legislative employees who had intimate relationships with legislators but were not fired from their jobs. He claims he was let go because of his relationship with former Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch.

But that list of examples may not be long.

“Similarly situated is not just anybody who had an affair,” said Sara McGrane, an employment attorney with the Felhaber law firm in Minneapolis, in an interview about the case. “The court will be careful before it allows a widespread fishing expedition [in order to protect] innocent parties who have nothing to do with this.”

The court would determine how many depositions are allowed.  “The parties may say, ’15 depositions,’ which the court may limit,” said McGrane.

In addition, McGrane said, depositions that would reveal the names and positions of legislators and their employees are private, up to point. They become public when used in a trial or if a defendant files for a summary judgment.  It’s unlikely they’d be leaked — “Highly unusual,” she said.

McGrane, who is a defense lawyer in unemployment cases, declined to judge whether Brodkorb has a winnable claim of sex discrimination. But she picked up on some of the fine print in the complaint. 

In March, Brodkorb filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Last week, the EEOC dismissed the charge but told Brodkorb he could proceed with a lawsuit. That could be telling, said McGrane. “The EEOC took a pass on probable cause. If I had to pick a side, I’d rather be on the defendants’ side in this case.”

Senate Majority Leader David Senjem indicated he’s prepared to fight to the legal finish line. “I believe the Senate has done nothing wrong. In fact, the Senate has acted carefully and appropriately in regards to this employment issue. I am not interested in a mediated settlement, and I believe the Senate will prevail in court,” Senjem said in a statement.

That will be expensive, said McGrane, because a typical employment case can reach six figures in legal fees. The Senate — i.e., the taxpayer — has already spent $85,000 in preparation for the lawsuit and now will pay legal fees for any employee who becomes involved in litigation.

“It is expensive for the defense to go forward,” she said. “It’s not uncommon for it to be cheaper to pay a plaintiff to settle the case.”

Expenses can multiply if lawyers go beyond the basics of investigation and discovery.

McGrane ticked off the cost drivers: “cases with a lot of motion issues; expert witnesses; independent medical examinations — for example, if there is claim of severe emotional distress.” Another expensive item, she said, is multiple depositions.

Brodkorb’s attorneys will ask to depose current and former members of the Republican leadership, including Sens. David Hann, Claire Robling, Chris Gerlach, Geoff Michel, Senjem, and Koch.

They also will want to depose Cal Ludeman, the secretary of the Senate, who personally fired Brodkorb and who is named directly in a charge of defamation.

Add to that the female employees that Brodkorb will want to depose to prove his case, and the plaintiff’s list could reach 20 or more.

Who is allowed on this list by the court is critical. “This becomes your playbook. This is what I’m allowed — where I have to make my best case,” said McGrane.

So it may not be multiple cases of private affairs between public people that Brodkorb will be allowed to offer up to the court.  It may be just one.  But that will be enough to encourage a Capitol guessing game and to maintain the public’s interest into the election season.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/24/2012 - 01:17 pm.

    The taxpayers have spent $85,000 to defend the Republicans in the legislature from a lawsuit stemming from a Republican employee/employer issue.

    Was a State of Minnesota HR person consulted on the pitfalls of their action? I doubt it.

    Could the State of Minnesota fire Brodkorb? I doubt it.

    They’re like the kids playing with matches, eventually burning the house down.

    Who buys the new house? Not the kids.

  2. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/24/2012 - 03:52 pm.

    Republicans will pay the price

    This suit will nasty, long, and very interesting for democrats just before the elections in November. If you want to shorten the case tell the republicans it is on their nickel not the public’s tax money. The case will be solved in private tomorrow if they have to pay for it. Let’s see if they deserve the self imposed title fiscal conservative. It turns out they don’t deserve the title because they have already spent about $100,000.00 just lawyering up. They will play the legal game as long as possible on your tax dollars. It won’t matter to them though because fiscal conservatives are more than willing to spend your money on themselves. You are about to see how MEANINGLESS the republican self imposed title of “fiscal conservative” really is. When are they going to work the real problems this state has vs their own personal poor indiscretions. Voters the republicans are sending you a very big message. The republicans are morally and leadership bankrupt. The choice is your in November voters.

  3. Submitted by David Bastien on 07/24/2012 - 04:20 pm.

    Defense of Brodkorp suit

    The $85,000+ bill we, Minnesota’s taxpayers, will have to pay for Republican misconduct is the extreme of hypocrisy. The Republican dominated legislature can’t come up with the money to pay for education (elementary, secondary, or post-secondary), restoring the state capitol, infrastructure development and maintenance, and all of the other things we really need in Minnesota, but they have no problems coming up with state funds to pay for the defense of a philandering Senate majority leader and for defending Republican legislators’ covering this whole ugly mess up. They ought to pay for it out of party funds.

    Oops!! I forgot. The party of fiscal responsibility is all but bankrupt — they can’t pay for it. On every single issue facing Minnesota their hypocrisy is stunning. The hired a scam artist to run their party they anointed a philanderer as their Senate chief just because she said same sex marriage was a threat to the institution of marriage, and they are now on the verge of bankrupting the State of Minnesota. In a more just time, these deceitful hypocrites would have been horse whipped, tarred, feathered, and ridden out of the state on a rail.

  4. Submitted by Clayton Haapala on 07/24/2012 - 10:16 pm.

    What? Brodkorb thinks he has a right to work?

    Nah, I know that “Right to Work” [for less] is not what is meant, here, but the pun is too tempting.

    I am kind of with Senjem on the “MN is an At-will employment” State. MB’s manager was canned (role change) , and his services were no longer needed. Why are we paying for this, again?

    Feature presentations of “MN GOP Exposed” are going to be attention-getting, this Fall.

  5. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 07/24/2012 - 10:32 pm.

    I wonder

    If Mr.. Broadkorp and his squeeze thought the rules of the blogosphere applied in the court. Next thing you know they will be calling Bachmann and Sutton for character witnesses

  6. Submitted by Carole Heffernan on 07/25/2012 - 07:27 pm.

    Interesting

    A reigning member of the party that has turned “trail lawyer” into a pejorative, continually whines of frivolous lawsuits, wants to kill unions with “right to work for less laws” because they have “too many rights” gets fired.
    He gets fired because he no longer has a boss so his position doesn’t have anyone to report to and what does he do? File a law suit against the state. His reason is “others have done it”.
    I don’t recall a case of anyone in the legislature resigning and their staff being kept on.

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