Federal Court Bristles at Litigant's Recording and Posting of Phone Conversations with Court Staff

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From Chief Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford (D. Vt.) in today's Order to Show Cause in Crosson v. North Country Federal Credit Union:

Kimberly Crosson has filed multiple lawsuits in this court in which she represents herself. In 2021 alone, she filed eighteen cases. She frequently contacts the clerk's office by telephone to seek information about her cases and court procedures. The court has recently learned that she records these conversations and posts the recordings to YouTube.

Recording telephone conversations with court staff without permission and publishing these conversations on the internet is inappropriate conduct. It is not illegal under federal or Vermont law to record a conversation so long as one participant (here, Ms. Crosson) consents. As a matter of court policy, however, the court protects its staff from recording and publication of phone calls. Recording and publication may unfairly expose a staff member to online harassment or other misconduct.

The court is a public forum and court filings and proceedings are open to all with few exceptions. But calling a staff member seeking an explanation or answer to a question which becomes public can place the staff member in an unfair position of appearing to provide a public comment on a pending case.

The court has scheduled a hearing for July 6, 2021, at [2:00] p.m. to provide Ms. Crosson with an opportunity to explain her reason(s) for the publication. In particular, the court will ask her to show cause why she should not be limited to contact with the court by mail, email, in-­person visits to the court's public counters, or electronic filing. Ms. Crosson shall appear for the hearing in person. If she does not appear, the court will enter an order limiting her contact with court personnel to mail, email, and in person or electronic filing.

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  1. Behold the haughtiness of federal judges.

    1. That is hilarious in the context of that case of the Temple professor who lost her job because leftist scumbags, agents of the Chinese Commie Party, at Temple, retaliated against her for her patriotic beliefs.

      What the fuck is wrong with this fucking, toxic, criminal profession, the fucking lawyer profession, 10 times more toxic than fucking organized crime (see BL v Mahanoy).

  2. If litigants aren’t routinely entitled to avoid public embarrassment by having their case files sealed, then I don’t see why any court official or employee should have such privacy either. This even goes for livestreaming in-person proceedings. But I would protect jury members’ identities since otherwise they are vulnerable to threats, such as those that appear to have decided the Chauvin case.

    1. The court didn’t tell her she was breaking the law. It is just conditioning its willingness to provide services over the phone.

      As far as I’m aware, Vermont courts are not obligated to provide service via carrier pigeon, smoke signals, hand mirrors, or many other communications media. I seriously doubt they’re required to do so telephonically.

      1. As I understand the law, there is nothing preventing her from hiding a recording device on her body and going in and asking — in person — for the public information.

      2. But can they provide service via carrier pigeon, smoke signals, etc, to everyone except one person that performed a legal act the judge felt was “inappropriate”?

        Certainly seems like denying a government service to one person when you provide it to everyone else, because of a legal action that person took, is retaliation.

        1. It’s not simply “a government service” – it’s part of the official access of litigants to the courts, which is among the items covered by the explicit constitutional command command “nor shall any state …. deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

          Consequently, if a State court were to make access to the court’s staff more difficult for one litigant than for the others, based on the court’s pique at that litigant legally recording and publishing conversations with the court’s staff, that would seem to me to require little more than a one liner to show sufficient cause. “Read the 14th Amendment” would seem to do it.

          Followed by a quick “show cause” from the State legislature to the Judge, seeking an explanation for why he shoud not be impeached for a blatant attempt to deny a litigant the equal protection of the laws.

          However as this is a Federal Court, it may be that denying the equal protection of the laws to a particular litigant is OK.

      3. What Toranth said. The courts may not be obligated to provide service through a particular channel but once they choose to do so, they cannot discriminate against those they serve without good reason.

        Since she’s not doing anything illegal, or even unethical, this would appear to fall short.

  3. IDK but 1) “But calling a staff member seeking an explanation or answer to a question which becomes public can place the staff member in an unfair position of appearing to provide a public comment on a pending case.”

    The words the staff member are looking for “no comment on pending cases”

    2) Seems to me there is a public right to know how staff responds to inquiries (same right to film a police officer for example). I mean, what if the staff were giving the Family, Friends, and other Benefactors the Court Rules Special Discount?

    I understand about the online harrassment etc., but so what. They are public officials.

    1. SC, I believe it was, ruled it ok for activists to get names of people who signed petitions for proposals to get on the ballot, because The People have the right to verify this. This in spite of the activists literally admitting to planning harrassment of the signers.

      Seems like this is the same issue, just that it’s the court people instead of general population.

      Live by the sword…

  4. The Court can get stuffed

  5. Why does a district whose population approximates 650,000 require three federal court facilities, two of which are 75 miles apart?

    1. Ever driven a Vermont highway in the winter?!?

      Hint: there is a *reason* why every bridge in Vermont is preceded by the warning sign that the bridge will freeze before the road does (because the cold air is under it) — it’s not to tell people what they know about bridges but that there is a bridge ahead…

  6. Is the court under the impression that “court policy” overrides actual law?

    1. Unless there is a law requiring the clerk’s office to take questions over the phone, I don’t see why they can’t limit her to in-person, mail, email and electronic filing.

      1. IANAL, but something about equal treatment springs to mind. What if they require her, and only her, to always wear blue when she comes to court, or only speak in pig-latin, or only use font size 14?

      2. Retaliation for First Amendment protected activity?

    2. “Is the court under the impression that “court policy” overrides actual law?”

      The don’t call them black robed masters for nothing.

    3. To what “actual law” do you refer?

      1. “It is not illegal under federal or Vermont law to record a conversation so long as one participant (here, Ms. Crosson) consents.”

        If it isn’t illegal, it isn’t illegal, and the court can’t make it illegal.

        1. Did the court try to put her in jail? No. So the court did not “make it illegal.”

  7. One more example of the kritarchy failing to act in accordance with civility, dignity, and humility.

    One cannot help but notice the similarity between the court’s concern fright at the prospect of court personnel being held accountable for their actions (“recording and publication may unfairly expose a staff member to online harassment or other misconduct”) and the ratiocination underpinning judicial immunity (horrors of horrors, judges may be held accountable if they violate a litigant’s rights, they shouldn’t have to worry about being sued).

  8. Before judging the Judge I’d like to know more about Ms. Crosson’s 18 cases. That seems like an awful lot. It may be she’s a major irritant to the court filing wackadoodle suits.

    1. One of the cases is against Kevin J. Bickford; Devil,
      Others include various state and local governments and agencies plus the USPS. Several seem to involve a T. J. Dovonan.

      1. T. J. Donovan is the Attorney General of Vermont.

    2. Well, in one of her lawsuits she names the defendants as as “Devil and Kevin J. Bickford.”

      1. I think that’s the same one, I took the name from the Judges Order.

      2. The Devil, unlike God, can be bound on the stand to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, by swearing “so help me, God”, which is actually a prayer that God condemn you to Hell should you lie. But only if he swears, not affirms. Human threats of jail carry no weight.

        Wait. The Devil is already in Hell. Nevermind. That carries no weight, either, like threatening someone in jail for life with no parole, with an extended sentence if he lies.

        1. United States ex rel. Gerald Mayo v. Satan and His Staff famously held otherwise. Citing a certain unreported New Hampshire Case in which one Daniel Webster successfully argued that the defendant was a foreign prince not entitled to sue in an American Court, the court held that it would only be giving the defendant his due to hold that if so, then he could not be sued in an American court either. The district judge also noted that the plaintiff had failed to provide evidence of service of process. The court dismissed Gerald Mayo’s class-action civil rights suit.

          https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_ex_rel._Gerald_Mayo_v._Satan_and_His_Staff

            1. That’s the one.

              You’d think he would have reared right out of the ground on January 6 if he was ever going to do it.

    3. She may be an irritant, and the judge may be able to sanction her for a lot of reasons. But taping and posting phone conversations of judiciary staff in Vermont is unlikely to be one.

    4. I looked at some of them. She’s going through some stuff.

  9. Can we send DaivdBehar up to VT on this one?

    Seems like he could use a little stress relief and could (legitimately!) take his frustrations out on them.

    1. Hey, take it easy on those pro se litigants.

  10. “It is not illegal under federal or Vermont law to record a conversation so long as one participant (here, Ms. Crosson) consents.”

    “I am the law!” Chief Judge Geoffrey Dredd

    1. Nobody is threatening to prosecute her or sue her for recording and posting phone conversations on YouTube. At most they’ll no longer talk to her on the phone (which AFAIK they’re not obligated to do) and she’ll either have to either file in-person or through mail, email or electronic filing.

      1. Nothing like the public sector’s commitment to provide outstanding customer service!

      2. I’ll wager that most of these commenters have never worked at a court and actually dealt with vexatious litigants on a day-to-day basis.

        1. I’ll wager that vexatious customers of any sort for any company are vexatious.

          1. Everybody in a service industry has to deal with annoying people. Court staffers aren’t special.

            This lady has done nothing wrong or illegal. She videoed people. The horror!

            1. “Everybody in a service industry has to deal with annoying people.”

              And good managers go to bat for their employees.

              Somehow I feel you would feel very aggrieved if your day to day work was recorded and posted online.

              1. “And good managers go to bat for their employees.”

                Good managers also go to bat for customers. And good court managers go to bat for litigants. This judge is not a good manager.

              2. “if your day to day work was recorded and posted online.” If I’m working for the government? I would expect it and be prepared for it.

            2. “This lady has done nothing wrong or illegal.”

              Filing a lawsuit against “the Devil” is wrong. In a number of ways.

              At least with respect to someone older than nine or so.

              1. I bet the Devil could inveigle you into representing him, pro bono, and convince you that he was doing you a favor.

              2. “Filing a lawsuit against “the Devil” is wrong.”

                A great thing about this country is that everyone, including Kirkland, is entitled to their religious beliefs.

                1. Do you believe fairy tales — perhaps one including Satan — are true?

        2. Crosson is an idiot, but two wrongs (the policy, as applied to Crosson’s litigious behavior) do not make a right.

        3. Yes, you qualified your asseveration, but this writer has “actually dealt with vexatious litigants” on more than one occasion.

          Of course, in all but one case, I was representing clients who had been besieged by such a vexatious litigant,.

          In the one case I was not representing a client, a former serially client sued me alleging, inter alia, that I had conspired with his commercial landlord, the commercial landlord’s counsel, his therapist, Ted Kennedy, Bill Weld, Scott Harshbarger (former Mass AG), the CIA, the Mossad, John Lehman (former Assistant Secretary of the Navy), Janet Reno, Bill Casey (who was already dead), and others, in an effort to deprive him and Vernon Gates aka David Koresh of patent and royalty rights to some mathematical formula.

          1. Yeah and you got to bill for that. Court staff who aren’t even lawyers? Not so much.

            1. LTG –

              Two points:

              (1) Yes, in the cases where I was representing clients, I got to bill them for dealing with the vexatious litigants; not so much in the case where the former client sued me in two different state courts and in federal court.

              (2) That a lawyer may have to handle a vexatious litigant is not beyond the scope of what his work may entail. That a court staffer may have to handle a vexatious litigant is not beyond the scope of his job. The difference is that the court staffer is going to be paid whereas there is a possibility that the lawyer’s bill may not be paid by the client who is being sued by the vexatious litigant.

            2. Are you suggesting the court staff are not paid? Every person who works with the public has to at some point, deal with something similar. This judge is a tool, which is not to say Crosson is not as well.

      3. Not sure that is true. To give an analogy: They police can be recorded. They cannot simply demand that you stop recording, unless you are trespassing, interfering with an arrest, or other reasonable time/place/manner restriction. Nor can police officers retaliate. The generalized threat of harassment isn’t enough to overcome the right to discuss the performance of government officials.

        Here the judge is not alleging that Crosson is interfering with the administration of justice in any way. The judge is not even alleging that staff members were harassed, just that they might be. Limiting Crosson to in this email feels like retaliation.

      4. He is threatening to treat her differently than every other litigant.

        “Ms. Crosson shall appear for the hearing in person.”

        Where she runs a real risk of a contempt citation because he has a God complex.

        1. Does every litigant file 18 cases at once, constantly call the clerk’s office and record it?

          1. Maura Healey does…

            So she’s an ambitious state AG who’d like to be Governor, doesn’t lady justice wear a blindfold???

        2. That’s how show cause hearings work.

  11. likely the court will find that their Emails are equally ridiculous

    1. And even easier to pass around and laugh at for mistakes.

  12. If they were to treat her differently than others who call the state – or differently than the other party in the lawsuits – wouldn’t that lead one to question the fairness of the proceedings. Have the judge’s actions (threat) already done that? He appears to be taking this action without a request from another party

    1. Much like yelling at and declining to tip the waiter for an over-cooked steak doesn’t really stick it to the restaurant, ensuring that some vexatious litigant can continually call and record the person at the front desk of the clerk’s office doesn’t stick it to the judge, his personal law clerks, the Court, or the government as a whole. It does extremely little to do anything for accountability and transparency other than make one of the lowest paid staff member’s life a little more difficult and stressful.

      1. Nothing in the order says she has been yelling or rude at all. It does not even say her questions were inappropriate.

        Staffers are adults paid to do a job.

        1. Pro se litigants are adults who should treat low level employees with respect and not put them on blast.

          1. And how, exactly, are pro se litigants different from other litigants?

            You wouldn’t happen to have a citation stating that pro se litigitants are some sort of sub-human life form, would you???

            1. Well for one thing, they typically don’t realize constant ex parte communication with the court is bad. Most lawyers are trained to avoid that.

  13. Why would recording court staff and placing calls on the internet be more likely to subject court staff to harassment, or place the staff member in an unfair position of appearing to provide a public comment on a pending case, than simply publishing what the court staff member said?

    And publishing what the staff member said is unquestionably protected by the first amendment.

    1. Anybody who has ever run into a rogue Court Officer with an inferiority complex has had the desire to record some of the disrespectful, contemptuous attitude dished out in entrances, hallways, and jury assembly areas. Rules against recording in public buildings are pseudo safety regs more designed to protect the judiciary and their enablers.

      1. ‘Rogue Court Officer with an inferiority complex,’ nameless bureaucrats like to stay nameless and enjoy the power they can lord over others.

  14. If you’re sufficiently vexatious, beyond some point, court employees have no obligation to respond to your phone calls.

    A system that lets one side do absolutely whatever it wants whenever it wants and requires the other side to be absolutely perfect is a system designed to stick it to one of the sides. Nobody would do any kind of public service in a system designed to stick it to public servants. Beyond some level, frequent filers and serial complainers can only make pests of themselves so much.

  15. “Recording telephone conversations with court staff without permission and publishing these conversations on the internet is inappropriate conduct. It is not illegal…”

    Anyone care to speculate on what would happen were the judge to say this about a BLACK woman???

    Enough said?!?!?

    1. As always: WTF are you talking about? What does race have to do with the quoted language? Indeed, what do you think he’s even saying “about” the woman? And how do you know — other than the demographics of Vermont — that he isn’t saying it about a black woman?

      1. I was going to post a similar comment, but deleted it after I Googled her and discovered she’s apparently white and suing for 25 Billion Dollars over some run down motel in Vermont.

  16. So I did the forbidden, and actually went to YouTube to find some of these recordings.

    The two I found were utterly boring. In the first, she is asking a clerk if the court has received some documentation, and then trying to find out why the responses that were supposed to be sent were not. 10 minutes, most of which is spent in silence as the clerk pecks at a computer (*tick*tick* wait wait wait *tick*tick*…)
    In the other, she is asking about scheduling some meeting. 5 minutes of wasted time.

    In both recordings, Crosson does raise her voice at least once, but is not rude, abusive, or harassing. The video descriptions are worse, as one refers to “judicial abuse”, but at no point is any person in the courts called out or accused of anything.

    1. Can you provide a link to one of the videos please?

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