Historical Society seeks limits in court case

Wade Young

Who can talk to whom, limiting free speech and protecting information are just a few of the recent events in the court case against the Le Sueur County Historical Society (LCHS).


According to an order filed in Le Sueur County Court on July 17, attorneys for LCHS have sought to restrict first amendment rights of those involved in the case. The proposed order filed by Attorney Raymond Konz, seeks to preclude the 16 plaintiffs in the case from disclosing “confidential” information between each other, puts limits on the media, and potentially other people in the public.


The plaintiffs’ attorneys responded in a letter to Judge Martha Simonett on July 23, saying the proposed order restricts free speech, free press and broader right to access to government, including the courts. They said reasonable restrictions like trade secrets and certain identifying information are expected, but a “whole-sale ban on communication with nearly everyone not hand-picked by the Defendant, including what amounts to a complete media coverage ban, is inappropriate … The proposed order would create a clear prior restraint on speech issue, and given that this isn’t a case about national security, nor the right to an impartial jury in a criminal case, it seems unlikely to be supported by any law.”


James Conway, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, called the gag order highly unusual and a move by LCHS to stop negative coverage in area newspapers.


Konz also requested other considerations from the judge. One was for a protective order and to limit the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the discovery of the facts of the case. He stated that LCHS has tried to work with the plaintiffs but they could not agree to any confidentiality agreement or protective order that, “prevents confused misunderstandings or intentional misrepresentations from being spread through newspapers and to bona fide and potential LCHS members.” 


Conway cited a Minnesota statute, which states that a protective order is used to guard against improper use of records. A proper purpose is actually defined by the statute as one “reasonably related to the person's interest as a member or director of the corporation.” 


He explained, “Examining the records for purposes of evaluating the management of LCHS is a legitimate purpose. Examining the financial records to discover the nature and propriety of LCHS’ acts is a legitimate purpose. LCHS, however, in asking the court for a protective order and delaying everything as long as possible, is an illegitimate waste of time and resources …”


Read more in the print edition.


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