Attorney General Eric Schmitt needs to stop with politically motivated lawsuits, like one for Rae's Café

Ken Garten
Ken Garten

Missouri law provides that “The attorney general shall institute, in the name and on the behalf of the state, all civil suits and other proceedings at law or in equity requisite or necessary to protect the rights and interests of the state.” 

Our illustrious Missouri Attorney General, Eric Schmitt, seems to have engrafted an additional clause onto this statute to include the power to “dive into frivolous, goofy litigation of no merit for purposes of political grandstanding to further his personal ambition and his U.S. Senate campaign, at taxpayer cost.” 

One of Schmitt’s latest political stunts is centered right here in Eastern Jackson County, where he dove headlong into the proceedings involving Rae’s Café in Blue Springs, where owner Amanda Wohletz decided to take on the county over its mask mandate. 

Now, we all have laws with which we disagree and don’t appreciate having imposed on us. I know I do. But that doesn’t mean the Constitution gives us the right to violate them. 

And after openly defying county health rules regarding use of masks, that escalated from a series of warnings and summonses, which Wohletz vigorously and openly ignored. She bought herself a revocation of her restaurant’s food establishment permit, which she also vigorously and openly ignored, and a lawsuit by the county seeking to enjoin her from continuing to do business unlawfully. 

Enter our attorney general, who took the opportunity to show up for a rally at Rae’s, and climb onto a bandstand, microphone in hand, to drum up support for a continued defiance of local health regulations. 

His office also filed a 14-page brief in the case in opposition to Jackson County’s enforcement action, and in favor of Rae’s counterclaim seeking to enjoin enforcement of the local health regulation. 

After a hearing on a preliminary injunction requested by both sides, Jackson County Circuit Judge Jennifer Phillips, in an extraordinarily well-reasoned and carefully crafted order, quite correctly found the positions taken by Rae’s and the Attorney General’s office to be without merit, denied their injunction, and quite correctly ordered that Rae’s should in fact have a valid food establishment permit as a precondition to operating a food service establishment – just like every other food purveyor in the county. The fact that she started calling her establishment a private club, and charged a membership fee of one dollar at the door notwithstanding. 

This is just another of the multiple frivolous legal actions that the state’s attorney general has initiated or joined at taxpayer expense, in a losing effort, the only purpose of which would seem to be the furtherance of his enormous political ambitions. 

Other examples of Schmitt using his office and taxpayer dollars for political stuntsmanship include diving into various frivolous lawsuits around the country to perpetuate the “big lie” that the presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. What business does the Missouri attorney general have in joining those ridiculous and frivolous cases at taxpayer expense? 

Another includes suing China over, in Schmitt’s own words, the “irreparable damage to countries across the globe, causing sickness, death, economic disruption, and human suffering” caused by COVID – another legal stunt that has been ridiculed in legal circles. He also initiating a class action lawsuit against local school districts throughout Missouri seeking to prevent them from enacting mask policies in response to the pandemic. 

Look, nobody hates wearing a darn mask more than I do. But local school policies should be determined by local school boards, not an attorney general who talks out of both sides of his mouth about the “sickness, death, economic disruption and human suffering” caused by COVID-19 while filing a class action lawsuit seeking to prevent measures by those entrusted with local school policies intended to deal with it. 

Other frivolity includes suing Google and Facebook – ridiculous lawsuits – and suing the Biden administration again and again over its policies relating to environmental and immigration policies. 

And while many of us may disagree with Biden’s policies, this is not the proper role of our state’s attorney general, and these lawsuits are of dubious merit, beyond wasting taxpayer money to pander to the public for political gain.  

As a lawyer, abuse of the legal system with frivolous, politically motivated litigation is something I disdain, particularly when it is done by our state’s attorney general. 

I certainly hope we don’t elect this man to public office again. 

Ken Garten is a Blue Springs attorney. Email him at krgarten@yahoo.com.