The Oregon state senator who warned police to “send bachelors and come heavily armed” before he left town in June has sued over new security requirements imposed on him at the state’s capitol building.
Sen. Brian Boquist made the ominous statement before he and other Senate Republicans left the state without a trace for several days in order to prevent a vote on a climate change bill. The move to short-change the legislature’s attendance, known as “quorum busting,” has a long history in statehouses, though the enthusiasm it evoked from militia movements in Oregon and surrounding states was unique.
Because of the threats Boquist made before he skipped town, a legislative committee last month voted to require him to give 12 hours notice before reporting to the capitol, in order to provide state troopers time to make public safety accommodations.
That, Boquist said in the federal lawsuit he filed last Friday, was unconstitutional. Or, in the words of his verbose complaint, “an illegal abuse of power and utilization, without due process, or juridical authority, and a flagrant violation of both the Oregon and United States Constitution.”
The suit alleges that nearly the entire hubbub — the use of state police to look for the then-out-of-state legislators, the daily $500 fines for their absence, a probe into Boquist’s conduct, and the 12-hour notice requirement ultimately applied to the senator — did not have legal authorization.
The meandering lawsuit also got into personal attacks, especially in justifying Boquist’s comments to the Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney before the walk-out, that “hell is coming to visit you personally” if Courtney sent the police after Boquist.
Boquist apologized for those remarks on the Senate floor, but dug them back up in his complaint.
Courtney and Boquist, the Republican said, “attend the same Catholic Church in Salem Oregon, the same weekly Mass on Saturday evenings, and sit across the aisle on opposite sides.” Boquist claimed that Courtney had at times expressed fear “that a certain Deacon, or Priest, will deny him communion, if not excommunicate him, damning him to Hell for eternity.” Courtney’s political positions, Boquist wrote, “are certainly counter to Catholic Doctrine.” Later, Boquist said he “does in fact believe President Courtney’s soul is completely lost now.”
During the quorum busting trip, the capitol building was temporarily closed due to what a Courtney spokesperson called a “possible militia threat.”
“We are in touch with certain senators,” militia leader Eric Parker of the group Real Three Percenters Idaho told TPM during the walk out. “Some have responded.” A spokesperson for the Senate Republicans maintained that they were “not with any militias.”
The walk out did ultimately succeed: Senate President Courtney abandoned the bill to cap carbon emissions while the Republican senators were away, after which they returned and completed the legislative session. And the state police, The Oregonian later reported, “did not make serious efforts to round up or arrest” the missing senators, beyond calling them.
The named defendants are the Senate’s Democratic president, two Democratic senators, the legislature’s top lawyer, its interim H.R. director and an outside lawyer who looked into Boquist’s remarks.