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News / Northwest

Ammon Bundy, state court no-show, wanted St. Luke’s case in federal court. A judge just ruled

By Alex Brizee, Idaho Statesman
Published: May 23, 2023, 7:30am

BOISE, Idaho — The St. Luke’s Health System lawsuit against Ammon Bundy is not going anywhere.

Roughly three weeks ago, the far-right leader asked for the defamation case to be moved to federal court. He argued that the case “involves Federal Civil Rights violations against Petitioners” and accused St. Luke’s of using court filings to overwhelm him and the other defendants, The Idaho Statesman previously reported.

U.S. District Judge David Nye, in an order filed Friday, denied Bundy’s request and granted St. Luke’s motion to dismiss Bundy’s petition, leaving the case in 4th Judicial District Court in Ada County — where Bundy has repeatedly refused to respond to court orders or even attend proceedings.

The case’s roots stretch to early 2022, when local law enforcement agencies took the then-10-month-old grandson of Diego Rodriguez to St. Luke’s Meridian over concerns about the baby’s welfare. Bundy, who counts Rodriguez as a close associate, led protests outside St. Luke’s hospitals in Meridian and Boise.

A March protest outside of the Meridian hospital blocked the ambulance bay and forced ambulances to be diverted to other locations and hospitals. Bundy was arrested and later, in a rare move, pleaded guilty to trespassing at the hospital in what he called a “peace offering.”

St. Luke’s later filed a defamation lawsuit against Bundy and Rodriguez, as well as against Bundy’s People’s Rights Network.

Nye, in the order, wrote that a federal court can take over a case only if every one of the people seeking such a move is residing in another state, or if there was a question about federal law.

Nye noted that Bundy lives in Emmett and that Rodriguez’s political action committee is registered in Idaho. He added that while the People’s Rights Network’s 60,000 members aren’t all Idaho residents, Bundy is.

In the order, Nye also pointed out that St. Luke’s has cited only state law in its complaints, and even if Bundy tried to raise a federal defense, he could do that in state court.

Nye also said he left the case in the 4th District for myriad other reasons, including that Bundy failed to file the request to transfer the case for almost a year — “long after the applicable deadline.” Nye also noted that Bundy requested the transfer only after a judgment was entered against him.

Erik Stidham, an attorney representing St. Luke’s, previously told the Statesman in an email that the timing of Bundy’s filing was “telling” and that St. Luke’s believed it was a “desperate delay tactic” to avoid accountability.

Nye criticized Bundy, Rodriguez and the other plaintiffs, and said that if they are ever in federal court again, they need to “conduct themselves with civility.”

“While zealous advocacy is always anticipated, the Court takes great umbrage when parties denigrate or threaten opposing parties or counsel,” Nye wrote.

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