Several Monroe County, Iowa officials thought it was a good idea to sue a gun rights group and one individual over their righteous challenge to some illegal gun-free zones that have been established on county property. Now the litigious officials are facing a counterclaim for violating the civil rights of members of the Iowa Firearms Coalition and Mr. Thompson.
It all started with a strong firearm preemption law that passed (along party lines) in the Iowa legislature and was signed into law last June. Anti-gun politicians and Moms Demand Action types freaked out, worrying that they might be held personally liable for infringing on peoples’ Second Amendment rights.
Some officials in Monroe County apparently thought they were above the law, though, and designated some county properties as off limits to gun carriers. Some individuals, including J.D. Thompson, along with the Iowa Firearms Coalition challenged those officials publicly.
In response, some of those public officials filed suit against Thompson and the IFC, seeking an order requiring that Thompson and the IFC pay for the county’s legal costs in defending against the suit over the county’s illegal activities.
We don’t know if the Monroe County’s Board of Supervisors consulted anyone at Dewey, Cheatham and Howe concerning their legal strategy, but that decision to sue private citizens seeking to hold their elected officials accountable for violating the law may have just backfired. Bigly.
The IFC and Mr. Thompson have now filed a counterclaim. They are seeking to hold the county officials personally liable as well as the Monroe County Board of Supervisors in their official capacity.
In other words, the counterclaim seeks to make it personal against the brain trust that thought it a good idea to sue citizens for demanding that Monroe County follow the rule of law.
Des Moines – After filing a lawsuit against the Iowa Firearms Coalition (IFC) and Albia resident J.D. Thompson, Monroe County now finds itself a named defendant in counterclaims that will likely prove costly to the county.
Following separate inquiries to the county about potential violations of a firearms preemption law passed in 2020, Thompson and the IFC found themselves named as defendants in a lawsuit filed by Monroe County on February 23, 2021. The county’s lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment about the law and asks for an order that Thompson and the IFC pay their attorney fees.
Thompson and the IFC’s answer, filed on March 11, 2021, includes counterclaims against Monroe County and several Monroe County officials, including the supervisors in their individual capacities.
“We look forward to pushing back against this abuse of power by Monroe County officials and vindicating the legal rights of J.D. and the Iowa Firearms Coalition,” said IFC attorney William Gustoff. He continued, “Every Iowan has the right to ask questions of public officials, and especially to question an illegal policy, without the fear of being sued for doing so or having to hire an attorney for petitioning government.”
H.F. 2502, signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds on June 25, 2020, prohibits political subdivisions from banning firearm possession in buildings unless security screening and armed guards are provided. Monroe County prohibits firearm possession in all areas of the courthouse, even in spaces that are not used for judicial branch functions. Thompson alerted county officials that their policy violates Iowa law and then, receiving no response from the county, wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper on the matter. The IFC appears to have been sued because it was mentioned by Thompson as a source of information and because another IFC member sent his own inquiries about the policy to the county.
“Monroe County’s decision to sue someone because he simply asked his local government to follow the law is truly outrageous,” said attorney Alan Ostergren. “The Monroe County board of supervisors voted to sue an individual because he wrote them a letter and sent a letter to the editor of the local paper. We will ask the court to hold them accountable for their unconstitutional actions” Ostergren added.
Thompson and the IFC’s counterclaims request confirmation that Monroe County’s firearms policy violates Iowa law and assert that Monroe County and its board of supervisors violated their civil rights by retaliating against them for exercising rights protected by the U.S. and Iowa Constitutions. Thompson and the IFC claim the county sued them to infringe on their rights to engage in free speech, petition the government, exercise freedom of association, and peaceably assemble. Additionally, they assert that the county and the sheriff violated Iowa law by releasing confidential information about Thompson’s possession of a permit to carry concealed weapons. The parties seek damages and attorney fees, as provided in federal and state law for such violations.
The counterclaims include a request that Monroe County board of supervisors Dennis Amoss, John Hughes, and Michael Beary be held personally liable for punitive damages for retaliation in violation of the Iowa Constitution.
Thompson and the IFC are represented by Des Moines attorneys William Gustoff and Andrew Karas of Hagenow & Gustoff LLP and Alan Ostergren of Alan R. Ostergren, P.C. They report that discussions earlier this week with the law firm defending Monroe County on the counterclaims were brief and not productive in finding a resolution.
Clearly, we will follow this case and report on the updates.
And for pushing back twice as hard against would-be tyrants who were ignoring the rule of law, we believe the Iowa Firearms Coalition and JD Thompson have earned our Gun Heroes of the Day award. In fact, we might have to give them a Gun Heroes of the Year award if they manage to walk away with an award for personal damages from the named supervisors in addition to cash from the county itself.
It’s long past time to hold some of these political leaders who willfully ignore the law personally responsible for their illegal edicts that infringe on their fellow residents’ gun rights.