Michael Lindell v. United States, No. 22-3510 (8th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
MyPillow, Inc. and Chief Executive Officer Michael Lindell (collectively, “Lindell”) appealed the district court’s denial of their motions for a preliminary injunction and for the return of property—Lindell’s cell phone that was seized by federal agents on September 13, 2022. The basis of Lindell’s action arises from an ongoing federal investigation into the individuals responsible for publishing forensic images of election software used in the 2020 election in Mesa County, Colorado. He argued on appeal that the federal investigation violates his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press, and the right to petition for the redress of grievances. He also contended the search warrant for his phone violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against general warrants.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Lindell’s motion for a preliminary injunction. The court reversed the district court’s decision not to exercise equitable jurisdiction over Lindell’s motion for the return of property as it relates to the continued retention of the cell phone itself and all its data. The court explained that it is unable to determine from the record whether the government can reasonably justify its continued refusal to return Lindell’s cell phone, which at this point was seized nearly a year ago, or the data on it, which is entirely unrelated to the offenses the government is investigating. Accordingly, the court remanded for the district court to hold a prompt hearing and balance the government’s interest in retaining Lindell’s cell phone and all its data against Lindell’s right to get the property back.
Court Description: [Erickson, Author, with Loken and Colloton, Circuit Judges] Civil case -Injunctions. Lindell's phone was seized as part of a federal investigation into the publication of forensic images of election software used in the 2020 election in Mesa County, Colorado. Lindell argues the investigation violates his First Amendment rights and that the seizure of his phone violates the Fourth Amendment prohibition against general warrants. Lindell's litigation is a tactic to, at a minimum, interfere with and, at most, enjoin a criminal investigation and ultimately hamper federal prosecution related to his, or others', public disclosure of forensic images of the County's election management servers; affording such relief is not only contrary to the purposes of a preliminary injunction , it would open the door to a deluge of similar litigation by those under criminal investigation, and the district court did not err in refusing to enter the requested injunction; nor can Lindell show that the exercise of equitable jurisdiction over the return of his seized phone data is warranted; Lindell had no claim based on the manner and method of execution of the search warrant for his phone; claim that the warrant was an invalid general warrant rejected; nor could Lindell show irreparable injury from the seizure; nevertheless, the government has no right to hold on to property that is not contraband indefinitely; on the record before the court, the court could not determine whether the government can reasonably justify its continued refusal to return the phone, and the matter is remanded to the district court with direction to hold a prompt hearing and balance the government's interests in retaining the phone and all of its data against Lindell's right to return of the phone and data. Judge Colloton, concurring in part and dissenting in part. [ September 20, 2023 ]