Former gubernatorial candidate Dr. Scott Jensen is suing the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice and Attorney General Keith Ellison in connection with multiple instances over the last three years where the board conducted investigations of his medical license.
The Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC) is representing Jensen in both claims, which were filed Tuesday in two separate actions. One is a First Amendment constitutional claim filed in federal court, and the other a Data Practices Act-related claim filed in Carver County state district court.
Jensen, a longtime family medicine practitioner from Chaska, ran as the Republican candidate for governor last year. He lost to DFL incumbent Tim Walz in the 2022 general election. Jensen served as a state senator from 2017 to 2021, and during the pandemic he became a vocal critic of many of Walz’s lockdown-related executive orders and policies carried out through the Minnesota Department of Health and other executive agencies.
Over the course of the pandemic and into Jensen’s gubernatorial campaign, the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice conducted five separate investigations of his medical license. Each one concluded with no findings to issue against Jensen. The medical doctor has maintained in multiple interviews in recent months that each of those investigations were triggered by anonymous complaints against him for his public opinions on government-related COVID-19 policies, and the board was “weaponized” against him by political opponents.
While the board’s jurisdiction is limited to complaints related to medical practice violations, none of the complaints about Jensen involved patient care, the lawsuit alleges. The investigations against him by the board targeted his political speech, which is protected by the First Amendment, the complaint says.
“You can’t use the power of an oversight board to repeatedly investigate someone just because of their political speech,” said attorney James Dickey, of the Upper Midwest Law Center. “And you can’t withhold government data from someone because you don’t like what he might say to the public.”
Complaints to board began in July 2020
Before July 2020, Dr. Jensen had never received a complaint or had been investigated by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice or its Complaint Review Committee, according to the lawsuit.
The Upper Midwest Law Center filed one of the claims on Jensen’s behalf in U.S. District Court against the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice. It involves three alleged violations of Jensen’s civil rights, including first amendment-related Abuse of Investigatory Power and Chilling Effect, Retaliation and Viewpoint Discrimination. Jensen is also alleging the board violated the 14th amendment equal protection clause in its repeated investigations of his license.
The second lawsuit was filed in state court against Attorney General Keith Ellison and the Office of the Attorney General. It alleges that, when Jensen requested some data about himself, the Office of Attorney General “turned over some data but intentionally withheld other data and even withheld data for the reason that Jensen might discuss it publicly.” It goes on to claim that the Attorney General’s Office assisted “the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice with politically motivated investigations.”
“Ellison’s actions, individually and as the ‘responsible authority’ for the (Office of Attorney General), violate Dr. Jensen’s rights under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, his right to equal treatment based on viewpoint under the First Amendment, and his right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment,” according to an Upper Midwest Law Center press statement issued on Jensen’s behalf. “This lawsuit seeks the production of withheld data, damages, attorney fees, and costs based on the defendants’ noncompliance with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act and the U.S. and Minnesota Constitutions.”
John Stiles, a spokesperson for the Office of Attorney General, said the “lawsuit is without merit and the Office will respond fully in court.”
“The Attorney General’s Office takes its responsibilities under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act seriously — and fulfilled them in responding to Dr. Jensen’s data request,” Stiles wrote in a statement. “The Office gave Dr. Jensen nearly 1,800 responsive documents. It also withheld other data that fell within categories that the law authorizes the Office to withhold.”
Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.