State inaction clears path for Big City Coffee lawsuit against Boise State

The state has apparently filed no response to a multimillion-dollar tort claim against Boise State University.

And that could pave the way for Big City Coffee to sue the state over a short-lived campus coffee shop — which has become a flashpoint in a divisive Statehouse debate over Boise State’s politics.

On March 24, Big City Coffee filed a tort claim against the university, seeking damages of more than $10 million. The coffee shop says it was forced off campus over politics — specifically, the shop ownership’s vocal support of law enforcement. Big City Coffee said it was not made aware of a growing backlash over its political stance, so the shop continued to work to open its campus location, borrowing about $150,000 to prepare.

While Big City Coffee says it was the victim of Boise State’s “extreme social justice agenda,” university officials have maintained that they simply agreed to the ownership’s request to sever its campus contract.

The tort claim is not a lawsuit, but it is a precursor to one, and the state has 90 days to respond to a claim.

In the Big City Coffee tort claim case, that 90-day deadline came and went Tuesday. The state made no response, state Department of Administration officials confirmed Wednesday morning. The department’s risk management office handles tort claims filed against the state and its agencies.

Boise State has declined comment on the tort claim.

Michael Roe, the Boise attorney representing Big City Coffee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Big City Coffee controversy also brewed at the Statehouse earlier this year, as conservative lawmakers accused Boise State of pushing a leftist agenda. Lawmakers eventually cut $1.5 million from Boise State’s budget, calling it an attempt to send a message about campus social justice programs.

About Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television; and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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