Mo. governor critical of AG defending lawmakers accused of defamation (2024)

By Betsy Webster

Published: May. 9, 2024 at 10:23 PM CDT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Missouri Governor Mike Parson expressed dismay Thursday over Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s defense of three state lawmakers who are being sued. The lawsuit involves social media posts that wrongly identified a man as an illegal immigrant and the shooter in February’s Chiefs Rally shooting. Parson and Bailey are both Republicans, and Parson appointed Bailey to his position.

The attorney general’s office last week signed on as defense attorneys for the lawmakers and argues the case should be dismissed because the lawmakers have “absolute legislative immunity.”

“I’m telling you it’s problematic,” Parson said Thursday.

Parson hinted at an announcement soon to come about the action he would take on the matter then spoke directly to the immunity defense.

Also Read: Missouri AG set to defend senators who called Olathe man an “illegal immigrant”

“Politicians have to be responsible and have to be held to a higher standard,” Parson said. “When you start attacking citizens in our state, you don’t get a free pass just because you’re a politician.”

An exhibit in the motion to dismiss shows a post on X shared by Republican State Senator Rick Brattin.

The photo is of Denton Loudermill on the ground with his hands behind his back as police stand by in the aftermath of the mass shooting. The original post, from an account called Deep Truth Intel, identified Loudermill by a different name, saying he was the shooter and an illegal immigrant.

Brattin shared the post with his words added: “@POTUS CLOSE THE BORDER!”

Cameras caught Loudermill in handcuffs in the wake of the shooting. Police had yet to confirm why he was detained when the false social media posts started multiplying. Loudermill’s lawyer said he was detained for lingering when police told him to get out.

He sued the lawmakers, saying their posts led to death threats. Loudermill’s attorney, LaRonna Lassiter Saunders, called the outgoing governor’s remarks “bold” and unexpected.

Read More: Man files lawsuit against Congressman over accusations of being shooter at Chiefs rally

“I think it was huge and impactful, and I’m glad he did it,” she said. “Way to hold everyone accountable.”

We asked UMKC Law School Professor Allen Rostron about legislative immunity. His focus is on Constitutional Law. He spoke to the Speech and Debate Clause in the U.S. Constitution.

“It says basically that you can’t be punished or held accountable for things that you say during speeches and debates in Congress,” said Rostron. “Technically, that only applies to Congress. But they’ve said there’s an implicit protection that is very similar in nature that applies to state legislative leaders, so they have some protection as well from either criminal or civil liability for things that they say as a part of the legislative process.

He said court rulings have made it clear the clause does not cover all speech.

“If you give a speech in the legislature, you are immune. Say whatever you want. But if you give a speech or political speech outside the legislature somewhere, you don’t have immunity for that,” Rostron summarized. “Another way to say it is it is to protect the legislative process, not the legislators.

Bailey’s contention is that the posts are a legislative matter, because they are statements on border security, despite targeting federal legislation that they do not control as state lawmakers.

Read On: Man shown on social media in handcuffs at Chiefs parade speaks out

A portion of the motion reads, “A statement directed at the federal government on an important political issue is exactly the kind of ‘policy formulati[on]’ that legislative immunity exists to protect.”

The suit was filed in federal court in Kansas. Loudermill lives in Olathe.

The motion to dismiss the case also claims the jurisdiction is inappropriate because the lawmakers have no connection to Kansas. Parson acknowledged that the defense claim could be valid. Rostron said if the case is dismissed for that reason alone, it could be re-filed in a different court.

KCTV5 contacted Bailey’s office for a response to the governor’s comments.

His press secretary, Madeline Sieren, wrote, “The State has an interest in ensuring that a remote federal district court isn’t the final say on interpretation of Missouri law.”

KCTV5 replied seeking comment on the immunity defense and has not yet received a reply.

Also Discover: Missouri's GOP Gov. Parson signs bill to kick Planned Parenthood off Medicaid

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Mo. governor critical of AG defending lawmakers accused of defamation (2024)
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