A federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Michelle MacDonald in March 2015 against Dakota County stemming from her arrest while representing Sandra Grazzini-Rucki in a family court hearing has been dismissed.
It was during the custody hearing involving Grazzini-Rucki and her ex-husband, David Rucki, on September 12, 2013, that MacDonald took pictures in the courtroom which led to her being arrested.
MacDonald spent a portion of the trial representing Grazzini-Rucki while confined to a wheelchair after her own refusal to walk back into the courtroom. MacDonald also refused to put on her shoes and glasses, or provide her legal name and address to law enforcement.
The Memorandum Opinion and Order Granting Defendants’ Summary Judgement, written by John R. Turnheim, Chief Judge of United State District Court of Minnesota, dismisses all of MacDonald’s claims. Because the court has ruled that no grounds exist for the lawsuit, attorneys representing Dakota County have requested that the court order MacDonald to pay costs incurred by Dakota County due to the lawsuit.
In March of 2016, the court dismissed many of MacDonald’s claims including, false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and retaliatory prosecution leaving only a few claims left to argue.
At that time, the court also found no grounds for claims of excessive force and state assault and battery “which related to her removal from the courtroom, removal of her personal effects, and placement in a wheelchair.”
Also dismissed were claims of equal protection, federal conspiracy, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress and finally a claim by Thomas Shimota, MacDonald’s husband, for loss of consortium.
MacDonald wrapped herself ‘like a mummy’ in her jail cell
The federal lawsuit filed by MacDonald revealed details of her time in custody which MacDonald had not previously disclosed.
Because MacDonald raised claims regarding the conditions of confinement during her time in jail, the court was left to examine whether or not “Jail staff expressed intent to punish her” or if the removal of her mattress, toilet paper and bedding were “reasonably related to legitimate governmental objective.”
In the examination and subsequent order, the court stated that, according to an affidavit submitted in support of Dakota County’s motion, a deputy testified that “Jail staff removed her cell mattress because she ‘crawled underneath it’ and removed her toilet paper because she ‘used it to wrap herself from head-to-toe, like a mummy.'”
The opinion continues, stating “[t]he Court notes that MacDonald’s behavior hindered the Jail from observing her well-being, which was especially important because MacDonald did not answer medical screening questions.” Based on this “legitimate purpose” for the removal of her mattress and toilet paper, the court determined there was no violation.
Perhaps the most revealing language in the memorandum can be found in a footnote at the bottom of the ninth page which detail claims by MacDonald regarding the conditions of confinement in Dakota County.
The court goes on to detail evidence set forth by Dakota County which went undisputed by MacDonald. The court states “many of these assertions also fail because Defendants offered undisputed evidence that contradict some of the claims and provided legitimate reasons justifying other conditions.”
These allegations include MacDonald’s assertion that she was “held in a ‘near-freezing’ cell all night.” This statement was contradicted by Defendants’ testimony evidence that the cell had a controlled thermostat which was set to 70 degrees and which Jail staff could not adjust and that MacDonald had been confined in a negative-pressure room “purely out of concern for her safety.”
This is the second court decision MacDonald has lost in the last few days.
Earlier this week the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a decision by the Office of Administrative Hearings which found that MacDonald had “knowingly violated” campaign law when she falsely claimed she was endorsed by a non-existent Republican organization.
MacDonald is also currently appealing a recommendation from a Minnesota Supreme Court referee that her law license be suspended.
Below is the order dismissing MacDonald’s lawsuit against Dakota County.