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Rodney Brossart

Supreme Court won't hear excessive force case involving North Dakota rancher

LAKOTA, N.D.—The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear the case of a North Dakota rancher who claims law enforcement used excessive force on him when they struck him multiple times with a Taser.

Tim Lamb, an attorney representing Rodney Brossart in the civil case, received a letter Monday, May 21, saying a writ of certiorari has been denied, effectively ending the review of the lawsuit by Supreme Court officials.

The case stems from a June 2011 confrontation between Brossart and the Nelson County Sheriff's Department. Then-Sheriff's Deputy Eric Braathen and a North Dakota Stockmen's Association officer approached Brossart about searching his land for the stray cattle.

Braathen threatened to take the rancher to jail if he didn't comply, but he didn't have a search warrant, Lamb previously said.

At one point, Brossart said, "If you can step foot on that property, mister, you're not going to be walking away," according to dashcam video from the Sheriff's Department. The confrontation ended with Braathen using a Taser on Brossart.

"In total, over the course of six minutes, Deputy Braathen pulled the trigger at least seven times for a total of at least 19-21 seconds of 'riding the bear,' as he described it," Lamb wrote in his brief to the Supreme Court.

The incident led to several standoffs involving Brossart's family, including one in which a Predator drone was used by law enforcement. At the time, it was thought to be the first time an unmanned aircraft was used to assist in the arrest of U.S. citizens.

Brossart was arrested and eventually found guilty of terrorizing, but the ruling was reversed in September 2015. A lawsuit followed but was dismissed by a federal judge, with the Eighth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals affirming the lower court's decision.

Brossart brought the suit against Nelson County, Braathen and former Nelson County Sheriff Deputy Kelly Janke, who was the sheriff at the time of the rancher's arrest.

It appears the Supreme Court ruling closes the book on Brossart's civil case.

"Unfortunately, all available avenues of relief have now been exhausted," Lamb said Friday in an email.

The Supreme Court is asked to review thousands of cases every year, but justices only hear about 100 to 150 of those cases each year, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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