A district judge has dismissed a lawsuit against a Grant City Council member in a dispute over campaign signs.
Judge Stephen Halsey’s orders come after a back-and-forth legal war that began in 2010 when Stephen Bohnen decided to run for his first elective office in Grant, a city of 4,100 residents.
Bohnen had reported to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office that some of his campaign signs had been stolen. Fellow resident Jeffrey Nielsen admitted to removing, but not stealing, the signs that he said were placed improperly. A theft charge against Nielsen later was dismissed in Washington County District Court for lack of probable cause.
Nielsen later sued Bohnen, alleging that Bohnen violated the law by placing signs in prohibited places and that he engaged in retaliatory acts against Nielsen.
Halsey, on May 23, issued separate orders in Bohnen’s favor.
In one, he granted Bohnen’s motion to dismiss an “abuse-of-process” claim, the only remaining count in Nielsen’s lawsuit. Halsey wrote that a recent Minnesota Court of Appeals decision “concludes that the mere issuance of a complaint or commencement of an action is an insufficient ground on which to base an abuse-of-process claim.”
In the other, Halsey denied Nielsen’s motion to allow a malicious prosecution claim against Bohnen.
A jury trial scheduled for June 2 was canceled.
Bohnen’s attorneys had argued that he was protected under a Minnesota law known as “anti-SLAPP,” which means “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” and applies to speech or conduct aimed at obtaining favorable government action. □