A Light at the End of
Introduction to Scott Huminski
Mataras -- 2/27/05
Click for Articles by Scott
December 23, 2006
Man who called judge a legal 'butcher' settles lawsuit
Ending a long-running legal
battle, a former Rutland County sheriff has agreed to pay more
than $500,000 in legal fees, expenses and damages to an
outspoken court critic from Bennington, according to a final
settlement in the case.
Scott Huminski, 47, who now lives
in North Carolina, prevailed earlier this year in a federal
civil rights lawsuit against the former sheriff, judges, court
staff, and others. Huminski sued them for barring him from a
Rutland courthouse in 1999.
The settlement is the result of
talks that have taken place since then between lawyers for
Huminksi and lawyers for former Sheriff R.J. Elrick, now the
executive director of the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford.
Those negotiations centered on payments Huminski's legal team
should receive for attorneys' fees and expenses.
Any costs Elrick is required to
pay will be covered by a liability insurance policy, sheriff's
department officials said.
"It's the total end of the case,"
Huminski said Friday. "It's nice to have it behind me."
Attorneys for Elrick could not be
reached Friday for comment.
All told, Huminski has been
awarded $708,428, including a previous $200,000 settlement from
the state. Huminski said most of the money paid his lawyers'
fees, although he was imprecise about how much of it he kept.
"I don't want to state exactly because it's kind of personal
financial data, but it's between $100,000 and $150,000," he
Judges issued no-trespass orders
against Huminski in 1999, banning him from the Rutland
courthouse where he had been demonstrating against a judge.
Elrick was Rutland County sheriff then and enforced the orders.
His lawyers have contended he did nothing wrong because he
merely carried out the judges' directives.
A settlement reached earlier this
month calls for the payment of $508,428 to cover Huminski's
legal fees, expenses and damages in the case. In exchange, the
former sheriff is clear of any further claims in the matter.
Huminski will "forever discharge
the Rutland County Sheriff's Department, its officers, employees
and agents including, without limitation, Robert J. Elrick …
from any and all manner of actions, claims and demands
whatsoever, in law and equity arising from the issuances of
notices against trespass to Scott Huminski on May 24, 1999 and
May 27, 1999," the settlement says.
The release, signed by lawyers
for Huminski and Elrick, has not yet been filed in federal
Earlier this year, a federal
judge awarded Huminski $378,211 in attorney's fees and $80,215
to cover costs and expenses stemming from his lawsuit against
Elrick, the sole remaining defendant in a legal battle that has
raged for more than seven years. In addition, a federal jury
awarded Huminski $50,001 in compensatory and punitive damages
following a trial in March. Huminski and Elrick's attorneys
later filed notices of appeal.
Huminski's attorneys at one point
had been seeking more than $1 million in fees and costs from
The out-of-court agreement ends those appeals, which would have
been heard in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York
Huminski has described himself as
a "court reporter" and "defender of justice." He is a longtime,
outspoken critic of Vermont's court system.
He had been upset for years with
what he has described as mistreatment by judges in Vermont,
particularly Judge Nancy Corsones, who presided over a criminal
case involving him in 1997. He was later thrown off Rutland
District Court property in May 1999 after plastering his van
with signs critical of a presiding judge.
"Judge Corsones: Butcher of the
Constitution," read a sign posted on the side of his van in the
courthouse parking lot.
In May 1999, after court
officials became concerned that he might be planning violence,
Huminski was issued a trespass notice ordering him to stay away
from the courthouse.
The federal appeals court in New
York has ruled that Elrick, Corsones, another state judge and a
former Rutland court clerk violated Huminski's rights by issuing
and enforcing the no-trespass order. But the appeals court also
ruled that the judges were immune from paying damages. The court
extended no such protections to Elrick and the court clerk.
Huminski and the state settled
the case involving the court clerk late last year for $200,000.
Huminski said he doesn't know if
he will ever move back to Vermont from his new home in North
"The cost of living down here is
much less," he said.
Sheriff must pay $400K to protester
The head of the state police
academy has been ordered to pay more than $400,000 in legal fees
and costs for violating the free-speech rights of a man who
parked his truck in the Rutland courthouse parking lot with
signs critical of a judge. . . . R.J. Elrick was Rutland County
sheriff in May of 1999 when he ordered Scott Huminski, then of
Bennington, to remove his truck from the courthouse parking lot.
At the request of two judges, Huminski also was issued a
no-trespass order banning him from courthouse properties
throughout the state. . . . Huminski, who was upset by some
rulings handed down by Judge Nancy Corsones, had put a sign on
his truck calling her a "butcher of the Constitution."
In e-mails to the Banner Huminski
said he does not think his case had an impact on state policy. .
. . "In my opinion, this case changed nothing in Vermont and
court watchers and court protesters should beware because
Vermont is a Bill of Rights hostile state. The governor proved
this when he appointed civil rights violator to the top police
job in the state ... Elrick should be in federal prison right
now, not training Vermont police officers."
Sheriff must pay $400,000 in free-speech case
The federal appeals court said
Corsones and Zimmerman violated Huminski's First Amendment
rights. But it ruled the judges were not liable for damages. . .
. That left Elrick. After the case came back a second time from
the appeals court, a federal jury in Brattleboro this March
determined that Elrick should pay $50,000 in compensatory
damages and $1 in punitive damages. . . . Judge J. Garvan Murtha
determined appropriate legal fees for Huminski's attorneys to be
$500,347. From that he subtracted $150,000, saying that much of
the settlement of Predom's role in the litigation was considered
to be attorney's fees. He then added $75,764 to cover travel and
other costs for Huminski's Washington-based lawyers, bringing
the total to $425,764.
Sheriff liable for $400k in court-access case
Following a trial in March in
U.S. District Court in Brattleboro, a federal jury found that
Elrick should pay Huminski $50,000 in compensatory damages and
$1 in punitive damages. . . . Huminski is a self-described
"court reporter" and "defender of justice." He is a longtime
outspoken critic of the Vermont justice system. . . . He had
been upset for years with what he has described as mistreatment
by judges in Vermont, particularly Judge Nancy Corsones, who
presided over a criminal case involving him in 1997. . . . He
was later ordered not to trespass at the Rutland courthouse
after protesting outside the building where Corsones then was
presiding. . . . The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled
that Elrick, a former Rutland court clerk, Corsones and another
state judge violated Huminski's rights by issuing and enforcing
the no-trespass order. . . . However, the appeals court also
ruled that the judges were immune from paying damages. . . .
Huminski and the state settled the case involving the court
clerk late last year for $200,000. Elrick was left as the only
defendant, leading to the trial earlier this year.
Following the trial, Huminski sought more than $1 million in
attorney fees and expenses. . . . Judge Murtha, in awarding the
$350,347 in attorney fees for Huminski rather than $1 million,
wrote that he based his decision on the lower hourly rate
charged by Vermont attorneys compared to the higher Washington
hourly rate sought by Huminski's attorneys. . . . "(Huminski)
has not 'clearly' shown the unwillingness of local counsel to
represent him," Murtha wrote. "The court does not find there are
no Vermont attorneys who were both sufficiently and relevantly
skilled to take his case." . . . Robert Corn-Revere, a
Washington lawyer whose firm specializes in First Amendment
cases, represented Huminski. Corn-Revere could not be reached
Sheriff liable for $400k in court-access case
A federal judge has ordered
former Rutland County Sheriff R. J. Elrick to pay more than
$400,000 in legal fees and expenses to an outspoken court critic
from Bennington who prevailed in a civil rights lawsuit earlier
this year challenging his barring from a Rutland courthouse. . .
. Scott Huminski, formerly of Bennington, had been seeking more
than $1 million in fees and costs from Elrick, now the executive
director of the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford. . . .
Elrick was Rutland County sheriff in 1999 when the no-trespass
order was issued against Huminski, prohibiting him from the
Rutland courthouse where he previously had demonstrated against
a judge. . . . Elrick's attorneys have contended that their
client was simply acting on orders issued by judges. . . .
Federal Judge J. Garvan Murtha issued a ruling last month
awarding Huminski $350,347 for attorney fees and $75,764 to
cover costs and expenses stemming from his lawsuit against
Elrick, the sole remaining defendant in the long-running legal
March 31, 2006
Courthouse gadfly wins 7-year
A former sheriff has been ordered to pay $50,001 for violating the
free-speech rights of a courthouse gadfly in 1999.
On March 28, a jury in U.S. District Court in
Brattleboro returned the verdict
against R.J. Elrick, former Rutland County sheriff. Elrick must
pay $50,000 in compensatory damages and $1 in punitive damages
to Scott Huminski, 46, formerly of Bennington and now of North
As sheriff, Elrick ordered Huminski to leave the
Rutland courthouse grounds after
Huminski parked there and posted a sign on his truck critical of
"Elrick's own attorney told the jury that they could only award punitive
damages if Elrick was found to have acted with malice," Huminski
said in an e-mail. "The jury did find that malice."
Huminski's lawyer, Robert Corn-Revere, confirmed the outcome of the case
yesterday. Messages left at Elrick's office and at the office
and home of his lawyer, Pietro Lynn, were not immediately
returned. Elrick is now executive director of the Vermont
Criminal Justice Training Council, which operates the state
"They (the jury) determined that punitive damages were justified because
the deprivation of his First Amendment rights had been wanton,
meaning reckless and with callous disregard" of Huminski's
rights, said Corn-Revere, a Washington lawyer who specializes in
First Amendment cases.
Of the $1 award for punitive damages, he said, "The jury decided to
temper justice with mercy when it came to actually charging the
sheriff with additional damages." He said attorneys fees in the
case against Elrick were yet to be determined.
The case was triggered by an incident in 1999, when Huminski was angry
about the outcome of a case he had had in the Vermont District
Court in Bennington in
which Judge Nancy Corsones presided.
Corsones was later assigned to
Rutland. Huminski, who for a time variously described himself as a
"court reporter" and "defender of justice," went to the Rutland
courthouse while Corsones was presiding there, parked in the
parking lot and put a sign on the side of his truck that read
"Judge Corsones: Butcher of the Constitution."
Court officials later said they ordered Huminski away from the
courthouse grounds, and barred him from all courthouses in
Vermont, because they feared he
might turn violent, which he didn't.
Huminski filed suit against the judges,
Rutland court manager Karen Predom,
Elrick and the Rutland County Sheriff's Department. The state
attorney general's office settled Predom's portion of the case
with Huminski last year, agreeing to pay $200,000 in damages and
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Corsones and Judge Patricia
Zimmerman, who were both involved in the no-trespass orders
against Huminski, violated his First Amendment rights. But it
ruled the judges were not liable for damages.
Corn-Revere said the jury's task was to determine the damages to assess
against Elrick. Still to be decided by Judge J. Garvan Murtha is
whether to issue the court order sought by Huminski and
Corn-Revere that would bar the sheriff's department from
enforcing any similar no-trespass order against Huminski in the
While the First Amendment case was pending, Huminski was a prolific
writer of e-mails and letters accusing
Vermont officials including
Attorney General William Sorrell and former Gov. Howard Dean of
Huminski said of Elrick in an e-mail yesterday, "So now we have a
malicious civil rights violator training every single police
officer in Vermont."
Corn-Revere said he hoped the former sheriff had learned something about
the First Amendment. "Hopefully this decision will help him get
better training on compliance with the Constitution. ... I think
he's gotten an advance tutorial at this point."
BALANCE OF TRIAL BEGINS Monday, March 27, 2006 -- 9:00 A.M.
United States District Court, Brattleboro,
Vermont, 2nd floor of the post office.
Damages sought against officials who denied
A long-running legal
battle waged by a man who was kicked off the Rutland courthouse grounds
for posting a sign on his truck critical of a judge enters a new phase
next week. . . . Various court decisions and a settlement with the state
in which Huminski got $200,000 have narrowed the case so the only
remaining defendants are former Rutland County Sheriff R.J. Elrick and
the county sheriff's department. . . . The state's $200,000 settlement
with Huminski removed Rutland court manager Karen Predom as a defendant.
. . . Robert Corn-Revere, a Washington-based First Amendment lawyer who
is representing Huminski, said, "Now that the court has determined that
the defendants in the case violated Scott Huminski's First Amendment
rights, the remaining portion of the trial is to determine what is the
appropriate remedy." . . . "We're seeking a permanent injunction against
the enforcement of the unconstitutional trespass notice and we're
seeking monetary compensation," Corn-Revere said Wednesday. . . . He
would not say how much in damages Huminski is seeking.
<Full Story> -- also see:
Jury to decide damages in rights case
A Light at the End of
Introduction to Scott Huminski
Mataras -- 2/27/05
Huminski formerly of Bennington, Vermont is a citizen-reporter
who was ejected from the Rutland County District Courthouse in
May 1999. He had displayed posters critical of Judge Corsones on
the side of his van. One sign read "Judge Nancy Corsones:
Butcher of the Constitution" and enumerated why he believed
Corsones had violated the Constitution.
parked his van in the Courthouse lot he was approached by
sheriff deputies who ordered him to remove his posters. Huminski
refused stating he had a First Amendment Right to freedom of
expression and freedom of speech. He proceeded to walk into
Judge Corsones courtroom to take notes of the proceedings for a
story he planned to write but the door was locked. Lo and
behold, shortly thereafter law enforcement officials served him
with two notices of trespass signed by Corsones and he was
escorted out of the court.
trespass notice barred him from district court property and
oddly the other one barred him from the residential property of
Judge Corsones. A few days later he was served with yet another
trespass signed by Judge Zimmerman. This one barred Huminski
from every courthouse and surrounding grounds in the entire
state of Vermont.
representing himself (pro se) went to federal court to challenge
the state courts’ orders; with their usual treatment of pro se’s
who object to their constitutional rights being violated, the
federal court judge dismissed the case.
like many other Victims-of-Law throughout the country, contacted
the local media and civil liberties organizations who ignored
him. Eventually Huminski contacted attorney Ronald K.L. Collins,
a constitutional lawyer who then contacted First Amendment
attorney Robert Corn-Revere at Hogan & Hartson in Washington,
D.C. An appeal was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second
Circuit on Huminski’s behalf and an amicus brief was filed by
attorneys at the Thomas Jefferson Center for Freedom of
Expression in Richmond, Virginia.
Corn-Revere stated: "Like many such cases the facts themselves
may arise from a seemingly insignificant local situation, but
they go to the heart of fundamental First Amendment principles.
This case is about the right to criticize public officials, the
right to speak in the vicinity of the courthouse, and the right
to attend judicial proceedings — all of which were thwarted by
the arbitrary use of local power to silence speech. Government
can be at its most oppressive at the local level if it is
unchecked or unchallenged."
"It's a sad
commentary on our First Amendment freedoms when a case like this
has to be litigated all the way to a federal court. This is not
a complex case. This is a simple free-speech case where a
citizen's First Amendment rights are abridged for no reason
beyond his saying what he had every right to say."
Collins put it this way: "If a citizen critic can't speak
without fear of arbitrary government action being directed
against him, then the very idea of constitutional democracy is a
October of 2004
Victims-of-Law was delighted to report, the
"First Amendment Wins" as republished below. The rest of this
site is dedicated to Scott Huminski's own writings about his
trials and tribulations as well as his victories.