Minnesota demands $50m bond from filers of Vikings lawsuit

A quick clarification of yesterday’s story about the lawsuit that has temporarily halted Minnesota Vikings bond sales: While plaintiffs Douglas Mann, Linda Mann, and David Tilsen originally argued that the state was illegally using city tax money without holding a public vote, that case was dismissed in November on the grounds that the state legislature explicitly overrode Minneapolis’s public vote law as part of the stadium legislation. The latest lawsuit, rather, charges that using city funds to pay off debts that are “not peculiarly for the benefit” of the city is illegal under the state constitution.

In any event, the state Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority fired back at the Manns and Tilsen yesterday, asking the state supreme court to dismiss the suit as “frivolous,” and asking that the plaintiffs be required to post a $49.7 million bond to cover losses the project may face from any delay. That’s a hefty chunk of change, and appeared to take Douglas Mann by surprise, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

When told of the nearly $50 million bond request, Mann, a registered nurse and former candidate for Minneapolis mayor, replied only after a long pause. “I haven’t been served with any papers, so I won’t have any comment until then,” he said.

Whatever you think of the merits of Mann’s case, it is a bit problematic if only people who have $50 million sitting around can file legal challenges against state actions. (Though I suppose it’s also problematic if citizens can cost the state millions of dollars by filing nuisance lawsuits.) The Star Trib doesn’t give any indication of where the state came up with that $49.7 million figure, but hopefully the court will ask that question, and questions about whether the state is just trying to bully its way out of a legal challenge, before deciding on the state’s request.

6 comments on “Minnesota demands $50m bond from filers of Vikings lawsuit

  1. Kudos to the Mann’s regardless of how this turns out. It is difficult to take on corruption against the State Legislature, but that does not mean it should not be fought. There should be more cases like this to recognize this is a systemic problem thoughout city, county and state governments using tax dollars to build golf courses and stadiums while infrastructure rots.

  2. Wow, I’d really like to know the legal basis for that request. So if someone does something to make you broke, you can’t sue them because you don’t have the money? I’m pretty sure I’d appeal that decision.

    I’m betting there’s no clause in the Minnesota or US Constitutions that anyone can cite as a basis for this demand.

  3. Mike: Anyone can seek damages (though this is generally done after demonstrable damages have actually occurred… unlike in this case) for real or perceived harm.

    This is nothing more than an attempt at chill (make the Manns back off for fear of being ruined if they have the nerve to question decisions). The courts see these sorts of nuisance actions filed all time… they can and should dismiss it out of hand. Though, it would be interesting if Mann actually countersued and let the courts decide which action is the spurious one…

  4. “… I suppose it’s also problematic if citizens can cost the state millions of dollars by filing nuisance lawsuits….”

    That would be true if the filing was demonstrated to be a nuisance action, which this has not been. I would only point out that defending improbable actions is one of the burdens you face if you are a large corporation or government… it’s a bit like of Noblesse Oblige, really. It comes with the territory.

    There are certainly cases where repeated (and sometimes identical) claims are filed by a chain of individuals seeking only to delay a project or decision. However, a single filing with a reasonable basis in law (IE: there are prohibitions against certain types of state funding in Minnesota as I understand it. And in this case, the state seems to have deliberately and willfully contrived to skirt these laws as closely as possible without – perhaps – breaking them) really can’t be considered a nuisance action in my opinion.

  5. John: Yeah, I’m not arguing that Mann’s is a nuisance action, just pointing out that clearly the state is trying to argue that it is.

  6. Fair point, Neil.

    It’s particularly galling that a state government would attempt to use the courts to shield it from the basic issue here: that they may have broken their own law in doing what they did. Rather than get to work on defense of their actions, they attack the attacker.

    Do we really need governments who use tabloid techniques to evade prosecution? Should evading prosecution be the standard our elected leaders shoot for?

    The Magna Carta was all about making the King agree that he was bound by his own laws as were his subjects. And yet, here we are… not only a state government but a series of Presidents have effectively made anything they choose to do be “legal”.

    Apparently, Nixon was a man born out of time… 40 years later he would have been lauded for initiative, not kicked out of office in shame. Is this progress?