Likening his words to a ‘bully,’ judge dismisses Sen. Brian Boquist’s lawsuit

Sen. Brian Boquist talks legal strategy from his home office, where he has started spending hours each day learning how to draft motions for his lawsuits against Senate President Peter Courtney. (Aubrey Wieber/Salem Reporter)

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by state Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, that accused Senate President Peter Courtney and others of abuse of power and attempting to silence him.

Boquist’s lawsuit stemmed from last year’s contentious legislative session. He filed it in July after the bipartisan Senate Special Committee on Conduct unanimously decided that the senator would have to give 12-hour notice to Oregon State Police before entering the Capitol building over comments he made that were perceived to be threatening. 

During the legislative session, Boquist was one of 11 Republican state senators who walked out of the Senate to deny majority Democrats a quorum needed to pass a controversial climate bill. Gov. Kate Brown said she would use her constitutional authority to send state police to bring the Republicans back. 

In response, Boquist told Courtney, “If you send the state police to get me, Hell’s coming to visit you personally.” Later that day, he told a KGW reporter that police come to get him they’d better “send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.”

Boquist’s comments resulted in an outside attorney recommending that Boquist not be allowed back in the Capitol building. He and other Republican senators who walked out were fined $3,500, which was later returned. 

In his lawsuit, which was amended in September, Boquist alleged that his First Amendment rights were violated and that his remarks were religious in nature. In a withering order issued Jan. 7, federal Judge Michael McShane ruled that Boquist’s words were “those of a bully on the playground.” He also wrote that Boquist “seems to overlook the fact that he sounds more like a character out of a Clint Eastwood movie than he does Mother Theresa.”

“These statements, apart and together, resonate more as threats than the expression of theological ideas,” McShane wrote.

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