Former staffer Michael Brodkorb's suit against the Minnesota Senate is shrinking.
On Tuesday, a court struck down three of Brodkorb's claims against his former employer, leaving just his claim of gender discrimination alive. Brodkorb was fired in 2011 after his boss, then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, stepped down from leadership in the wake of an affair she and Brodkorb were having.
He has since sued the Senate over his firing, claiming that female employees at the Legislature had affairs and were permitted to keep their jobs. The case has cost the Senate more than $100,000 in legal bills.
Brodkorb also filed two defamation claims against former Secretary of State Cal Ludeman and claimed his constitutional rights were violated.
The defamation claim centered around Ludeman's statement in March of 2012 that Brodkorb, through his legal actions, was trying to blackmail the Senate and extort payments. Ludeman said those things in as Brodkorb had announced he planned to depose female legislative staffers to prove they were treated differently.
The court, essentially, decided that Ludeman was guilty of "hyperbole," not defamation.
In a lengthy discussion of the criminal and colloquial use of the words "extort" and "blackmail," the court decided that Ludeman's words, while lacking in "cautionary language...were made in the context of heated, back and forth negotiations between the parties."
The court said, Ludeman's hyperbole, "did not appear in a rhetorical vacuum. Furthermore, the larger contextual backdrop for these statements was the political arena, where speakers - even those from the same political party, as here -- often engage in provocative or inflammatory speech."
The court, at the Senate's request, Wednesday struck down those claims and said the State of Minnesota should not be a party to the lawsuit.
Brodkorb's discrimination claims remained intact.
Democrats, who now control the Senate, and Republicans, who controlled it when Brodkorb was fired, cheered the news.
“I welcome this news on behalf of the Minnesota State Senate. We will now take time to review the implications of this decision as we determine how the Senate will proceed and ultimately resolve this litigation," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook. "Our hope is to bring the remainder of the law suit to a prompt and satisfactory conclusion.”
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, agreed: "We’ve said all along these claims are without merit and the Senate has acted lawfully. We believe the courts will find the remaining claims to also be without merit."
Brodkorb Wednesday night said he had no comment on the court's decision.
Read the court's decision here: