J.A.I.L. News Journal
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Los Angeles, California                                            December 20, 2005
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NO RIGHT TO EXPOSE
JUDICIAL SYSTEM, II
(Scott Huminski may be reached at s_huminski@hotmail.com)
 
Back in the early days of J.A.I.L., June 10, 2000, we sent out a J.A.I.L. News Journal entitled, "No Right To Expose Judicial System," which reported on the then JAILer-In-Chief (JIC) Scott Huminski, (Vt.), who pulled his van into the parking lot of a Vermont courthouse laden with posters that embarrassed the judiciary, more particularly Judge Nancy Corsones, which  identified her as a "Butcher of the Constitution." For his "crime" he was permanently banned from all court properties throughout the state of Vermont. Since that time, JIC Huminski has been heavily engaged in court battle for his right to walk onto court property and into a court building in Vermont.
 
After years of battle, the State of Vermont, on behalf of the taxpayers of Vermont, have finally agreed to pay Scott Huminski $200,000.00 as a settlement, and to allow him to again walk into a court building unmolested.
 
The article immediately below is a news report on the issues back in 2000. Following that is today's news article, December 20, 2005, describing Vermont's agreement to settle with Scott Huminski.  
                                                                                -Ron Branson
 
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Charles Levendosky
Editorial Page Editor
Casper Star-Tribune
Tel: 307-234-0338
Fax: 307-234-0338
Columnist
New York Times wire
Web Master
First Amendment Cyber-Tribune
http://w3.trib.com/FACT/

WHEN COURTS SUBVERT LAW
TO BANISH A CRITIC

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Charles Levendosky, editorial page editor of the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, has a national reputation for First Amendment commentary. His email address is levendos(AT-sign)trib.com.)

By CHARLES LEVENDOSKY
c. 2000 Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune

In Vermont, a number of state judges and one federal judge don't think citizens have the right to attend criminal or civil trials -- at least not those citizens who criticize judges or the decisions they make. Citizen-reporter Scott Huminski has been summarily barred from Vermont courts for his criticisms.

His case is a lesson in how those in power, even when they know they are wrong can subvert constitutional guarantees of liberty.

Although Huminski transports antiques for a living, for the past three years he has been on a crusade watching how his state courts operate. He attends state court proceedings and then publicizes what he considers misconduct with posters placed in the windows of his Bennington home and in the windows of his van. He also distributes information about the proceedings to attorneys and government officials.

One of Huminski's posters contained the headline, "Judge Corsones: Butcher of the Constitution" and beneath it, Huminski listed five reasons why he made that claim. One of the reasons, Huminski charged was that Rutland District Court Judge Nancy Corsones "strips defendants of the right to defense counsel."

That poster resulted in him being banished from "all lands and property under the control of the Supreme Court and the Commissioner of Buildings and General Services, including the Rutland District Court, parking areas, and lands."

Judge M. Patricia Zimmerman of the Rutland District Court signed this sweeping trespass notice on May 27, 1999. The Bennington County Sheriff's Department served Huminski with the notice.

Clearly, Huminski is a gadfly, troubling the plodding steer of state. He may be bothersome, but he isn't a criminal. He has done nothing illegal. He has only exercised his rights as a U.S. citizen.

Zimmerman's trespass order is the third one issued against Huminski, but it is the broadest. The first trespass notice, issued only days earlier, prohibited Huminski from entering the Rutland District Court or its parking lot. The second trespass order barred him from entering Corsones' property.

If Huminski were to even park his van in the parking lot of a Vermont court, he could be arrested immediately.

The trespass notices were filed for one reason only -- Huminski criticized a state judge and her decisions.

Law enforcement officials make no claim that Huminski was disruptive, a public nuisance, or interfered with the administration of justice. He was quiet and attentive while in the courtroom and the courthouse. He neither picketed
the courthouse, nor engaged in vulgar or obscene expression while there. He simply posted his opinions.

The trespass orders have worked. They have kept a citizen-reporter from engaging in public debate about his state courts. Huminski has not been close to a Vermont court for nearly a year. His reporting has been silenced.

Instead, Huminski filed a lawsuit in a federal district court against Rutland and Bennington law enforcement officials claiming they have violated the Vermont Constitution and his First Amendment rights to attend and report on court proceedings. He acted as his own attorney. And lost.

On Oct. 20, 1999, U.S. District Court Judge J.G. Murtha, apparently blinded by Huminski's harsh criticism of a judge, dismissed his claims. Murtha concluded that Huminski had "failed to demonstrate a clearly established federal right which the defendants violated." Never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled time and again that the people have a right to criticize government officials.

In his decision, Murtha quoted a U.S. Supreme Court case having to do with picketing near a courthouse -- a very narrow decision that has nothing at all to do the facts of Huminski's case. No one asserted that Huminski had picketed the Rutland District Court. He hadn't.

The Vermont Constitution, in Article 13 of its Declaration of Rights, states: "That the people have a right to freedom of speech, and of writing and publishing their sentiments, concerning the transactions of government, and therefore the freedom of the press ought not to be restrained." How clear can it be? Courtroom proceedings are "transactions of government." And "the people have a right ... of writing and publishing their sentiments" concerning those transactions.

Now, Huminski has Robert Corn-Revere, an experienced and well-respected First Amendment attorney from Washington, D.C., handling his case. They have filed an appeal with the U.S. Second Court of Appeals.

According to Corn-Revere, he hopes that his client gets "a clear statement from the Second Circuit that local governmental officials don't have the ability to simply exclude people from the courthouses in the state of Vermont.

"More specifically, we would hope to get a ruling that eliminates the ability to simply use mechanisms like trespass law to silence critics of local judges. In short, what we're looking for is a clear declaration from the Second Circuit involving the fundamental First Amendment rights that are at stake in this case in the situation we're presented with here."

These Vermont law enforcement officials and judges have the astounding gall to seriously think that they can bar a citizen from the state courts for all time because that citizen criticized a judge. They make no bones about it.

In the briefs filed with the court of appeals, the attorneys for the sheriff's department, city law enforcement and city officials baldly state they have such a right.

And they note in their briefs that Huminski "has never attempted to enter courthouse property since service of the (trespass) notice, and thus has neither been denied access nor suffered any criminal sanction." The briefs assert, "Huminski has suffered no actual harm."

The series of events involving Huminski might be worse than a collusion of arrogance on the part of those in power to silence a critic.

Widespread ignorance of the foundation of liberty upon which this nation is built -- especially on the part of judges and law enforcement officials could eventually bring our nation crumbling down -- as if an earthquake had fractured the structural basis of our constitutional values. An earthquake of ignorance.

Arrogance or ignorance? That isn't much of a choice. Either way, Huminski has been unfairly and illegally persecuted by the power structure in Vermont. The harm he has suffered, all of us share. The outcome of this case affects us all.  
 

Current State of Affairs Re: Scott Huminski
 
State will pay court protester $200,000
http://www.rutlandherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051220/NEWS/512200367/1002
December 20, 2005

BRATTLEBORO The state will pay $200,000 to a former Bennington man to settle a lawsuit alleging that Vermont officials violated the U.S. Constitution by barring him from a Rutland courthouse.

"The government has to observe the Bill of Rights more carefully before acting without thinking," Scott Huminski, 46, said Monday of the settlement his attorneys have reached with the state in his legal battle that has goes back more than five years.

Huminski had traveled from his home in North Carolina to attend a scheduled hearing Monday in U.S. District Court in Brattleboro.

Joseph Winn, an assistant state attorney general, represented Karen Predom, the former Rutland District Court manager.

A trespass notice was issued against Huminski when court officials in May 1999 became concerned he might be planning violence outside the courthouse during one of his one-man protests against the state judicial system.

Predom was among several defendants named in a federal lawsuit filed by Huminski, and one of only two people left as defendants following many court rulings over the years.

"The settlement hasn't been totally finalized. There are still some original documents for him to sign off on, but yes, we have settled," Winn said Monday night.

In addition to the $200,000, the settlement that dismisses the case against Predom includes an agreement that the trespass notices originally issued to Huminski more than five years ago would not be enforced.

"And no future notices would be issued unless there was some disruption to court proceedings or some threat to personal property," Winn said.

Winn said that an earlier ruling by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City led to the state settling the case.

"The 2nd Circuit essentially entered judgment against Ms. Predom, and given that, it was just a matter of the attorneys' fee that would need to be settled after that. In terms of fees, they had already accumulated a significant amount," Winn said. "If we had gone to trial and had a judgment entered against us it would have been considerably more than $200,000."

Robert Corn-Revere, a Washington lawyer who specializes in First Amendment cases, represents Huminski. Corn-Revere said Monday the $200,000 settlement represented a compromise between his client and the state.

Beyond the dollar amount, the settlement represented something else, the attorney said.

"The message is that state officials shouldn't violate the Constitution," Corn-Revere said.

Huminski, now living in North Carolina and working at a home improvement store, declined to reveal how much of the $200,000 would be used to pay attorney fees.

"That's a private matter," he said.

Huminski, a self-described "court reporter" and "defender of justice," is a longtime outspoken critic of the Vermont justice system and became quite upset by what he thought was mistreatment by Vermont judges.

He particularly became infuriated with Judge Nancy Corsones regarding a criminal proceeding against him in 1997.

He even ran against Bennington State's Attorney William Wright in 2002, campaigning on an "anti-corruption" platform.

Huminski was thrown off the property of Rutland District Court in May 1999 after plastering his van with signs critical of a judge presiding that day. "Judge Corsones: Butcher of the Constitution," read a sign posted on the side of his van in the Rutland courthouse parking lot.

Earlier, Corsones and other officials received letters of outrage from Huminski concerning her handling of a criminal case he had in Bennington County when she was a presiding judge there.

"As it is the policy of the state of Vermont to encourage and allow crimes to be committed against myself and my wife without fear of prosecution, I must take the law into my own hands and initiate activities that will get national media attention," Huminski wrote in one letter. "When the smoke clears, the nation will wonder what went wrong in Vermont."

Corsones and other courthouse officials became concerned over what Huminski might have been planning when he appeared in the court parking lot in May 1999. Another judge issued a no-trespass order against Huminski, which barred him from state courthouses and their grounds across Vermont.

Huminki then sued in federal court, alleging violations of his Constructional rights, setting off a legal dispute that has spanned several years and leading to a recently negotiated settlement with the state.

In October, federal Judge J. Garvan Murtha granted summary judgment in Huminski's favor on his freedom of expression claim against Predom, who was Rutland District Court manager at the time of the incident, and R.J. Elrick, then Rutland County sheriff.

The only matter left was to determine the matter of damages.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City had earlier ruled that Predom, Elrick, Corsones and the judge who issued the no-trespass order, Patricia Zimmerman, violated Huminski's rights.

"There are facts on the record that might raise the concern that Huminski was, at least in part, being punished for his political protests, or being prevented from continuing them" by his exclusion from court property, the court said.

However, the judges were immune from paying damages in the case, the appeals court ruled, arguing that judges need to be able to protect themselves from unhappy defendants.

The appeals court's ruling effectively left Elrick and Predom as the remaining defendants, with the only matter to be decided the amount of damages to be awarded to Huminski.

Now, Elrick is the only remaining defendant, and jury selection is set for next month for a trial to determine how much, if any, damages would be paid out to Huminski.

A hearing in the case was set for Monday in federal court in Brattleboro. Attorneys for Huminski and Elrick met in Murtha's chambers and then the emerged to go to another private room to discuss a possible settlement.

The two sides talked for about 20 minutes without reaching an agreement on the Elrick case and the matter is still set for a trial on damages.

Contact Alan J. Keays at alan.keays@rutlandherald.com.


Our congratulation to Scott Huminski on his victory. God bless you, Scott. We are sure the taxpayers of Vermont are happy to have forked over to you $200,000.00 of their tax dollars for your five years of faithfully defending the Constitution on their behalf. Perhaps they should now once again consider you as a good candidate for Vermont State Attorney General.
 
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"..it does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless
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"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is
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