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Big City Coffee's $10 million lawsuit against Boise State University partially dismissed

The judge dismissed motions against both Boise State University and Boise State President, Dr. Marlene Tromp, but is allowing other parts to move forward.

BOISE, Idaho — Nearly six months after Big City Coffee filed a $10 million lawsuit against Boise State University, a judge has dismissed part of the lawsuit, but is allowing other parts to move forward. 

Sarah Jo Fendley, the owner of Big City Coffee, sued the university and others in October 2021, a year after claiming she was forced out of the location. 

In a 31-page complaint filed in Fourth District court, Big City Coffee, LLC, and Fendley allege that university officials violated Big City's rights under the U.S and Idaho constitutions to freedom of speech, due process of law and equal protection under the law. 

The suit also accuses the university of violating the Idaho Consumer Protection Act, committing fraud by omission, and "knowingly, wrongly and intentionally" interfering with a contract awarded to Big City in May 2020, when Big City was selected from among several Boise coffee shops after the university opted to replace Starbucks with a local business in the Albertsons Library.

At the center of the lawsuit is a "Thin Blue Line" emblem on display at the flagship store in downtown Boise's Linen District . The flag has hung at the location since 2016.

Fendley's now husband, former Boise police officer Kevin Holtry was injured in the line of duty in 2016. He lost one of his legs and was paralyzed after a standoff with an armed man in a Boise neighborhood. 

One month after Big City's Boise location opened, it shut its doors down for good. Fendley said they were forced off campus because of her support and display of the Thin Blue Line flag. 

The Thin Blue Line flag is viewed by some critics as a direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement, which picked up steam in the summer of 2020 after George Floyd's death. 

RELATED: Big City Coffee files $10 million suit against Boise State University

The judge dismissed motions against both Boise State University and against Boise State President, Dr. Marlene Tromp, saying they cannot be sued for monetary damages in their official capacities under the 14th Amendment. 

The judge also dismissed the lawsuit against Tromp as an individual, but not against Vice President of Student Affairs and Manager of Enrollment, Leslie Webb, Vice President for University Affairs and Chief of Staff, Alicia Estey, and Vice President for Equity Initiatives, Francisco Salinas. 

Fendley can continue her lawsuit against those three individuals on the basis of violating her 14th Amendment rights and treating the business differently than other businesses on campus, the judge said Wednesday. 

Fendley's lawyers now have until May 27 to file an amended complaint. 

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