Federal judge dismisses Rep. Mo Brooks from Capitol riot case

·3 min read

Mar. 10—A federal district judge on Wednesday dismissed U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, from a lawsuit alleging he had a role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot that breached the Capitol Building.

"... Brooks' alleged speech that forms the basis for the claims against him is protected speech under the First Amendment. ... The allegations do not support a plausible inference that 'he was advocating any action' or that 'his words were intended to produce, and likely to produce, imminent disorder,'" Judge Amit Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled, quoting a U.S Supreme Court case.

Mehta on Feb. 18 dismissed Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani from the lawsuit filed March 5, 2021, by Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., but declined to dismiss the claims against former President Donald Trump. In that order the judge had indicated he would dismiss the claims against Brooks once the congressman filed a motion to dismiss, which Brooks did on Tuesday.

According to Mehta's Feb. 18 order, "The court is prepared to grant such motion for the same reasons it dismisses all claims against Giuliani and Trump Jr.: Brooks' remarks on January 6th were political speech protected by the First Amendment for which he cannot be subject to liability."

In a speech on Capitol grounds at a "Stop the Steal" rally on Jan. 6, shortly before the breach of the Capitol Building, Brooks said: "Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass! Now, our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes, and sometimes their lives, to give us, their descendants, an America that is the greatest nation in world history. So I have a question for you: Are you willing to do the same? My answer is yes."

Brooks had previously argued that he was immune from liability because he was acting within the scope of his official office when he gave the speech, an argument that was unsuccessful. The U.S. Department of Justice said he was not acting in his capacity as an office holder at the rally.

"The record indicates that Brooks' appearance at the January 6 rally was campaign activity, and it is no part of the business of the United States to pick sides among candidates in federal elections," according to the Justice Department's filing.

Brooks is now a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa.

While Mehta has dismissed three defendants from the case, the former president remains a party.

"Only in the most extraordinary circumstances could a court not recognize that the First Amendment protects a President's speech," Mehta wrote in the Feb. 18 order. "But the court believes this is that case."

Mehta noted that the former president, Brooks and the other defendants made numerous false statement between the election and the rally on Capitol grounds that the election had been stolen.

Just hours before Congress was scheduled to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, Trump told his supporters to "Fight like hell and if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore." He said, "(We're) going to try to and give (weak Republicans) the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country," and then told the crowd to "walk down Pennsylvania Avenue."

eric@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2435. Twitter @DD_Fleischauer.