St. Luke’s libel case against far-right activist Ammon Bundy and his associate Diego Rodriguez – both regularly absent – advanced on Tuesday, with a judge issuing new rulings in a pre-conference hearing at trial, but leaving some questions open.
St. Luke’s filed a lawsuit in May 2022 after Bundy and Rodriguez led protests at the Boise hospital over a child protection case involving Rodriguez’s grandchild, it previously reported. the Idaho Statesman. The lawsuit names these two men, Bundy’s People’s Rights Network and other business entities affiliated with them as defendants.
Rodriguez’s penchant for filing court documents late became a central issue on Tuesday. Fourth District Judge Lynn Norton asked if Rodriguez or anyone representing him was in court and was met with silence.
Rodriguez filed a request for a remote appearance at 11:04 p.m. Monday and took to Telegram to express his frustration that it was not granted. Norton denied the request in court, pointing out that his pre-trial order already stated that all parties must appear in person at the hearing.
St. Luke’s attorney Erik Stidham noted that requests for remote appearances must be made three days in advance.
Another late-breaking filing involved a warrant for Rodriguez that Norton originally issued May 23 for contempt of court after he failed to attend court hearings and comply with discovery requests.
However, Rodriguez filed a request to transfer his case to federal court the same day at an unknown time. The judge noted in court documents that she did not receive this information until after her order. She overturned it to avoid a conflict with federal court.
However, Norton reissued the contempt warrant on Tuesday, along with $25,000 bond, after a federal court ruled Rodriguez’s request was “moot,” keeping the case in state court.
Bundy also tried to have the case sent to federal court, but that was denied.
Some trial issues remain unresolved
With a trial date set for July 10 in the case, Norton said in court that she would impose penalties on the defendants for failing to appear for depositions, but she had not decided on the amounts.
The judge also did not decide whether she or a jury would decide damages at trial.
She has yet to find Rodriguez – who had a small involvement in the case – at fault. She entered default judgment against Bundy in April, meaning he essentially lost the case by not participating in the litigation at all.
“My responsibility is that they had every opportunity to remedy the problem,” Norton said.
St. Luke’s filed a motion asking that any evidence of the defendants be excluded from the trial due to their failure to comply with discovery requests. Discovery is “the formal process of exchanging information between parties about the witnesses and evidence they will present at trial,” according to the American Bar Association.
Stidham said this type of move is not unusual.
“It’s just something that exists in the law to take away any benefit someone gains by not complying with the discovery,” Stidham told the Idaho Statesman.
The trial is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Monday, July 10 at the Ada County Courthouse.