Former Republican U.S. Senate candidate and current State Senator Julianne Ortman requested and received temporary legislative immunity from appearing in conciliation court during the Minnesota Legislative Session after being sued earlier this year for an unpaid debt from her 2014 campaign for the U.S. Senate.
In an email to Judge Richard Perkins on March 12, 2015, Ortman requested the lawsuit "be postponed/continued for hearing until after adjournment of the Minnesota Legislative Session." Ortman sited Minnesota Statute §3.16 which excuses "Members, Officers, and Attorneys" employed by the legislature from court duty during the session.
Judge Perkins granted Ortman's request and in an email to a Carver County court administrator, Perkins wrote "[i]t is automatic under the law. Must continue."
David Schultz, who teaches law at the University of Minnesota and is also a political science professor at Hamline University said, "this law was never intended to prevent legislators from appearing in court for civil or criminal proceedings involving their behavior." Schultz added Ortman was "clearly abusing" the actual intention of this law.
Ortman did not respond to a request for comment.
In the last few years, the Minnesota Legislature has debated what some argued is a loophole which allows lawmakers immunity from arrest during the legislative session.
Ortman's campaign and treasurer were named in a lawsuit filed in conciliation court in January regarding an unpaid bill of $4,483.14 owed by her U.S. Senate campaign for lawn signs and a banner made by Century Promotional Advertising.
The lawsuit was settled in June after Ortman's campaign agreed to pay $2,000 of the debt owed to Century Promotional Advertising. Ortman announced in May she would not seek re-election to a fifth term in the Minnesota Senate.