The Potluck

Traverse County Attorney attempts to intervene in Minnesota abortion rights ruling

By: - August 5, 2022 11:53 am

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A county attorney in west-central Minnesota filed a motion Thursday to appeal a ruling that strengthened Minnesota abortion rights.

Traverse County Attorney Matthew Franzese — through the law firm the Thomas More Society — said the motion to intervene comes after Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced last week that he will not appeal a Ramsey County judge’s ruling that expanded abortion access in the state.

The Thomas More Society is a conservative law firm that has litigated issues including election administration, abortion rights and vaccine mandates.

The Ramsey County judge last month struck down laws related to parental notification, hospitalization, mandated physician care and informed consent, ruling the statutes infringed on the constitutional right to abortion granted by the state Supreme Court in a 1995 ruling.

The 2019 case, Doe v. Minnesota, was brought by abortion rights groups that argued certain laws that established requirements to receive an abortion in Minnesota — like a provision requiring people to wait 24 hours — were unconstitutional. 

The judge’s July 11 ruling struck down the requirements, and Ellison said last week that he didn’t intend to appeal the decision.

A lawyer for the Thomas More Society said in a statement that Ellison was attempting “to strip away Minnesota’s protective oversight and eliminate any regulation of abortion.”

“And now, in an unconscionable move, the Minnesota attorney general is refusing to appeal a decision that strikes down laws enacted by the Legislature as the will of the people,” said Erick Kaardal, special counsel for the Thomas More Society.

Kaardal is a well-known conservative lawyer who last year was referred to a D.C. federal court’s grievance committee for his role in a lawsuit suing then-Vice President Mike Pence to stop him counting electoral votes showing President Biden had won the 2020 election, according to Reuters. A federal judge said Kaardal’s lawsuit was “filled with baseless fraud allegations and tenuous legal claims.”

Traverse County is located on the Minnesota-South Dakota border and is the state’s least populous county, with 3,360 residents, according to the 2020 U.S. Census count.

John Stiles, spokesperson for the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, defended Ellison’s decision to forego an appeal.

“Attorney General Ellison zealously defended the constitutionality of those laws for three solid years, at great cost to Minnesota taxpayers,” Stiles said in a statement. “In his carefully considered opinion, any appeal is not likely to change the outcome and is not in the broad public interest.”

The Thomas More Society motion to intervene claims that the Ramsey County judge’s ruling “has no precedential value beyond Ramsey County.”

Kaardal said Ellison did not adequately defend the laws limiting abortion, arguing the the attorney general’s defense “was superficial.”

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues.