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.
According to the law firm of Hagenow & Gustoff, representing Thompson, 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 Feb. 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.
“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 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.
Members of the board of supervisors did not have a response to Thompson’s lawsuit Tuesday morning. They were holding a closed session to discuss the issue and said they would have a statement later.