ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A lawsuit accusing Republican Tom Emmer of legal malpractice has been tossed out about a year after it became a distraction late in his Minnesota gubernatorial campaign.
“This is the end of the ordeal,” Emmer’s attorney Michael Schwartz said Thursday.
A Wright County judge last week dismissed the case initiated by a former client of Emmer, who ran a law firm while he served in the Minnesota Legislature. Emmer lost a close 2010 race for governor to Democrat Mark Dayton.
Emmer’s allies were incensed by the lawsuit, which became public about three weeks before the election. Schwartz called it a “shakedown” and others worried it would inflict political damage even if the case ultimately went away.
Roofing company owner Steven Hackbarth had argued that Emmer put up a shoddy defense for him in a 2009 civil case. Emmer was the lawyer for Hackbarth Enterprise Corp. in a case where Hackbarth was a separately named defendant. In that case, Hackbarth was hit with a $30,000 judgment for not paying for roofing supplies; he didn’t fulfill the judgment, so the state revoked his contractor’s license.
When Hackbarth sued Emmer he claimed it had nothing to do with politics, noting he had been a supporter of Emmer in past Minnesota House campaigns. But Emmer’s team accused Hackbarth of trying to leverage the Republican’s candidacy to extract a big settlement.
In the ruling dated Sept. 14, Judge Stephen Halsey cited deficiencies in case filings by Hackbarth and his company. But the judge declined to make Hackbarth pay Emmer’s legal fees, as his side wanted.
Larry Frost, who represented Hackbarth’s company in the case, didn’t immediately return a phone message.
Last year, Schwartz said Emmer was considering actions against Hackbarth for filing what Schwartz saw as frivolous claims. On Thursday, Schwartz said Emmer wouldn’t go that route because he was ready to “put this in the past and move forward.”
Emmer now hosts a Twin Cities radio show and is mentioned as a potential candidate for Congress if Rep. Michele Bachmann decides not to seek re-election. She is a Republican candidate for president who is lagging in the polls.
Emmer didn’t immediately return a phone message.
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