ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – A federal judge has ruled that either party in fired aide Michael Brodkorb’s lawsuit against the Minnesota Senate can designate materials or witness depositions as confidential, an order the former staffer said Friday was too broad but that an opposing attorney classified as routine.
U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan issued the order Thursday, covering information sought and exchanged in the pre-trial phase of a case headed for trial next summer. Brodkorb is suing over his dismissal, which followed disclosures of an affair he was having with then-Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch.
The order covers depositions of former lawmakers and others. Brodkorb claims that his termination after the affair became public was handled differently than similarly situated employees in Capitol romances. His side planned to seek depositions of current and former lawmakers as he tries to prove he case.
Koch gave up her leadership post when the affair surfaced and didn’t seek re-election after serving out the final year of her term.
Senate lawyers have said Brodkorb was an at-will employee who could be fired at any time.
Dayle Nolan, a Minneapolis attorney defending the Senate, said the protective order is normal in civil cases but is more beneficial in this instance due to the “the heightened prurient interest in this case and the type of allegations lodged by the plaintiff.”
Nolan added, “The press coverage has been fast but fact-free, and would support the idea that a protective order would be making the litigation be more normal litigation.”
Brodkorb said he agrees that aspects of public officials’ private lives should be handled in a delicate manner. But he said the judge’s order goes beyond that.
“Every aspect of this case is likely under seal,” he said Friday. It will “deny the public an opportunity to understand what happened in this case and the nature of it.”
Either side can object to the designation of the other on any material. In such disputes, a judge would have to weigh in. Should the case go to trial, proceedings would presumably occur in public view. Boyle’s order said the court “may take such steps as it deems reasonably necessary to preserve the confidentiality of such documents or information.”
The Senate has amassed more than $200,000 in legal costs fighting the lawsuit. An updated invoice was expected soon.
While the pre-trial proceedings move ahead, the sides have been ordered into a settlement conference in late September. A prior attempt to settle the case fizzled last fall.
Brodkorb, a former deputy chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party, is seeking a six-figure award.
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