Huminski v. Rutland County Sheriff's Dept., No. 1:99-CV-160.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
Writing for the CourtMurtha
Citation211 F.Supp.2d 520
PartiesScott HUMINSKI, Plaintiff, v. RUTLAND COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; Nancy Corsones, Vermont District Court Judge, individually and in her official capacity; Karen Predom, Vermont District Court Manager, individually and in her official capacity; R.J. Elrick, Rutland County Deputy Sheriff, individually and in his official capacity; M. Patricia Zimmerman, Vermont District Court Judge, individually and in her official capacity, Defendants.
Decision Date11 July 2002
Docket NumberNo. 1:99-CV-160.

Page 520

211 F.Supp.2d 520
Scott HUMINSKI, Plaintiff,
v.
RUTLAND COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; Nancy Corsones, Vermont District Court Judge, individually and in her official capacity; Karen Predom, Vermont District Court Manager, individually and in her official capacity; R.J. Elrick, Rutland County Deputy Sheriff, individually and in his official capacity; M. Patricia Zimmerman, Vermont District Court Judge, individually and in her official capacity, Defendants.
No. 1:99-CV-160.
United States District Court, D. Vermont.
July 11, 2002.

Page 521

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

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William Edward Kraham, Brattleboro, VT, Robert L. Corn-Revere, Hogan & Hartson, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Pietro J. Lynn, Heather Elaine Thomas, Lynn & Associates, P.C., Burlington, VT, Joseph Leon Winn, Vermont Attorney General's Office, Montpelier, VT, Paul L. Reiber, Reiber, Kenlan, Schwiebert & Facey, P.C., Rutland, VT, for Defendants.

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OPINION AND ORDER
(Papers 120, 123, 125, 128, 132, 145)

MURTHA, District Judge.


Plaintiff Scott Huminski brings this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming Defendants —two Vermont state judicial officers, a state court clerk, a county sheriff's department, and a county sheriff—violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution by causing him to be served with criminal trespass notices prohibiting him from entering all state court facilities or grounds.1 Huminski received the notices shortly after he displayed protest signs criticizing the judicial conduct of Defendant Nancy Corsones, a Vermont District Court judge, in a state-owned public parking lot located adjacent to the Vermont District Court building in Rutland, Vermont. Huminski's suit requests declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief against Defendants Corsones, M. Patricia Zimmerman, Karen Predom and R.J. Elrick, in their official and personal capacities.2

On February 27, 2001, the Court granted Huminski's motion for a preliminary injunction and temporarily barred Defendants from enforcing the trespass notices if they "are based solely upon Huminski's public expression of his political opinions so long as the expression does not disrupt or threaten the orderly performance of court business." See Huminski v. Rutland County, 134 F.Supp.2d 362, 366 (D.Vt.2001) (Paper 67). Huminski now seeks a permanent injunction by moving for summary judgment. Defendants, asserting various immunity defenses, oppose Huminski's motion and also move for summary judgment.

Because there is a genuine factual dispute whether Defendants Nancy Corsones, M. Patricia Zimmerman and Karen Predom caused the trespass notices to be served due to legitimate concerns about courthouse security, or, instead, because of their disagreement with the views expressed by Huminski, the Court DENIES the motions of those Defendants. Given the factual dispute, however, the Court also finds there is no reasonable likelihood Plaintiff will prevail on his claims for declaratory and permanent injunctive relief. Accordingly, the Court DISSOLVES its prior grant of preliminary injunctive relief (Paper 67).

Finally, for additional reasons clarified below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and GRANTS summary judgment in favor of Defendants Elrick and Rutland County Sheriff's Department.

I. Background

As this case is now before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment, the following facts, except where noted, are undisputed:3

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A. Huminski's Protest and the Notices Against Trespass

On May 24, 1999, at approximately 7:30 a.m., Scott Huminski legally parked his van in a public parking lot located immediately adjacent to the Vermont District Court building at 92 State Street in Rutland, Vermont. The land on which the parking lot sits is owned by the State of Vermont.

Displayed on one side of Huminski's van were three posters, measuring 45 inches by 54 inches, on which was written:

JUDGE CORSONES, BUTCHER OF THE CONSTITUTION

• STRIPS DEFENDANTS OF RIGHT TO DEFENSE COUNSEL

• REINSTITUTES CHARGES VIOLATING ART 11, CH 1, VT CONST.

• PUNISHES PROTECTED EXPRESSION WITH CRIMINAL CHARGES

• MALICIOUSLY DISREGARDS DOUBLE JEOPARDY BY REINSTITUTING CHARGES AFTER CONVICTION AND FULL PUNISHMENT

• SUBVERTS DUE PROCESS BY VACATING BINDING PLEA AGREEMENT POST-PUNISHMENT

• UNCONSTITUTIONALLY PUNISHES DEFENDANT FOR SEEKING REDRESS OF GRIEVANCE IN CIVIL COURT

• IGNORES AND ENCOURAGES PROSECUTORIAL VIOLATIONS OF THE CODE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY

The signs caught the attention of Rutland County Deputy Sheriffs Mark Beezup and Steven Schutt, who were stationed that morning at the District Court. After the deputy sheriffs determined that the van belonged to Scott Huminski and observed him seated in the front of the van, they requested he remove the signs from the van or move the van to another space in the parking lot. Huminski refused, telling them he planned to observe judicial proceedings in the District Court.

Huminski had no scheduled court appearance that morning, but he had a prior history with the Vermont criminal justice system, in particular with Judge Corsones. Judge Corsones presided over State v. Huminski, Docket No. 203-2-97, a criminal case brought in Vermont District Court in Bennington, Vermont in 1998 by Bennington County State's Attorney William Wright. In the course of that proceeding, on September 3, 1998, Judge Corsones granted the State's motion to vacate as "involuntary" a plea agreement that would have resolved two obstruction of justice charges filed against Huminski.4 The next day, September 4, 1998, Huminski—evidently upset by the ruling—filed a formal complaint against Judge Corsones with the Vermont Judicial Conduct Board.5 Huminski later sued Judge Corsones in Vermont Superior Court for alleged violations of his constitutional rights.6

In addition to his formal efforts to challenge Judge Corsones and the State's handling

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of his case, Huminski sent "complaint" letters to various state officials. Copies of two of Huminski's letters, addressed to officials at the Vermont Attorney General's office, were brought to Judge Corsones' attention.7

One of the letters, undated and addressed to Cindy Maguire, Chief of the Criminal Division of the Attorney General's Office, contained the following:

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.... Vermont's policies ... have destroyed my life.... A State cannot target an innocent citizen for destruction. When the smoke clears, the nation will wonder what went wrong in Vermont. Hopefully that inquiry will prevent you from doing this to someone else.

* * * * * *

You might achieve [State's Attorney William] Wright's goal of driving us out of Vermont (or killing us) and attaining my destruction, not without a fight. The conflict has begun. My demise won't be in vain. There will be national publicity and an outside investigation. Its [sic] odd how people like you who wonder why citizens form militias and arm themselves, now I know why. The government does target people for purely political reasons and the criminal justice system and law enforcement is a tool used by corrupt agencies to kill innocent civilians. For twenty months I have given the State multiple opportunities to prove that my assumptions in this letter were wrong, now its [sic] time for action as the State has revealed that corrupt policies are in place at the highest levels. Bill Wright's policies are being obeyed by the attorney general's office. No justice. No fairness. No constitution. No rights. Someone will be held accountable.

Paper 127, Ex. 2.

The other letter, dated September 3, 1998 and addressed to Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, read, in part:

This State is crooked to the core. Your willingness to pervert the law of the State of Vermont for the purpose of attacking one person is criminal. I believe the state will prevail in its goals, however, I believe my future activities will prevent the state from engaging in this behavior ever again. I require a response to my previous correspondence by noon today. Continued evidence of your corrupt behavior requires that I accelerate my activities.

Id., Ex. 3.

In addition to the two letters, Huminski also sent at least three other letters to Corsones concerning her handling of his criminal case. These letters were sent by tele-facsimile to Corsones' former law office, where her then-husband worked as an attorney.

Finally, on numerous occasions prior to May 24, 1999, while Judge Corsones presided over cases at the Vermont District Court in Bennington, Huminski engaged in protests in the courthouse parking lot. These protests, not unlike the activities of May 24, entailed parking his van in the courthouse parking lot with signs expressing his opinions on the side of the vehicle facing the building. During the protests, however, Huminski's signs never criticized Judge Corsones; they criticized the conduct

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of State's Attorney William Wright and Deputy State's Attorney John Lavoie. Furthermore, at no time during the protests at the District Court in Bennington did any government official or security personnel investigate the van or request that he leave, move his van, or remove his signs. Huminski also never received a notice against trespass. Corsones knew of Huminski's protests in Bennington and that they were directed at the State's handling of his criminal case.8

While in her District Court office in Rutland on the morning of May 24, 1999, Corsones learned from Schutt that Huminski's van was parked in the lot immediately outside the courthouse with signs attached criticizing her judicial conduct. Schutt also expressed his concern to Corsones about Huminski's presence....

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3 practice notes
  • Huminski v. Corsones, Docket No. 02-6201(L)
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • October 7, 2004
    ...federal court insofar as Huminski sought damages against them in their official capacities. Huminski v. Rutland County Sheriff's Dep't, 211 F.Supp.2d 520, 531 (D.Vt.2002) ("Huminski III"). The court also decided that Elrick was immune from liability under section 1983 in his official capaci......
  • Huminski v. Corsones, No. 02-6201(L).
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • October 7, 2004
    ...federal court insofar as Huminski sought damages against them in their official capacities. Huminski v. Rutland County Sheriff's Dep't, 211 F.Supp.2d 520, 531 (D.Vt.2002) ("Huminski III"). The court also decided that Elrick was immune from liability under section 1983 in his official capaci......
  • Huminski v. Corsones, No. 02-6201 (L) (Fed. 2nd Cir. 1/18/2005), No. 02-6201 (L).
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • January 18, 2005
    ...court insofar as Huminski sought damages against them in their official capacities. Huminski v. Rutland County Sheriff's Dep't, 211 F. Supp. 2d 520, 531 (D. Vt. 2002) ("Huminski III"). The court also decided that Elrick was immune from liability under section 1983 in his official capacity b......
3 cases
  • Huminski v. Corsones, Docket No. 02-6201(L)
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • October 7, 2004
    ...federal court insofar as Huminski sought damages against them in their official capacities. Huminski v. Rutland County Sheriff's Dep't, 211 F.Supp.2d 520, 531 (D.Vt.2002) ("Huminski III"). The court also decided that Elrick was immune from liability under section 1983 in his official capaci......
  • Huminski v. Corsones, No. 02-6201(L).
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • October 7, 2004
    ...federal court insofar as Huminski sought damages against them in their official capacities. Huminski v. Rutland County Sheriff's Dep't, 211 F.Supp.2d 520, 531 (D.Vt.2002) ("Huminski III"). The court also decided that Elrick was immune from liability under section 1983 in his official capaci......
  • Huminski v. Corsones, No. 02-6201 (L) (Fed. 2nd Cir. 1/18/2005), No. 02-6201 (L).
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • January 18, 2005
    ...court insofar as Huminski sought damages against them in their official capacities. Huminski v. Rutland County Sheriff's Dep't, 211 F. Supp. 2d 520, 531 (D. Vt. 2002) ("Huminski III"). The court also decided that Elrick was immune from liability under section 1983 in his official capacity b......

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