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'Amateur reporter' appeals case over courthouse access

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    NMU         VERMONT         Secret Courts         Mar 29, 2000    

‘Amateur reporter’ appeals case over courthouse access

  • A man who says he has been investigating courts and police and publishes his findings on placards on his van sued officials after he was ordered to leave a courthouse.

A self-described “amateur reporter” has appealed a district court’s decision to dismiss his lawsuit over access to a local courthouse.

The appeal to the federal Court of Appeals in New York (2d Cir.) stems from Scott Huminski’s First Amendment claim over a decision by Rutland city officials and city and county departments to restrict Huminski’s ability to attend and report on court proceedings.

Federal judge J. Garvan Mutha in late October granted requests from the city departments and city employees to throw out the lawsuit before trial. In an affidavit that Huminski, who was acting as his own attorney, filed with the court, he stated that he had been “investigating and reporting on Court proceedings and law enforcement in Vermont for the past three years” and that he publishes his findings on placards that he posts on his home and van.

Mutha’s order states that multiple notices of trespass had been served upon Huminski that ordered him to stay off, among other properties, the Rutland District Courthouse grounds. Mutha held that the individual public officials enjoyed immunity from Huminski’s suit because they did not knowingly violate any of his constitutional rights. Given that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that a state can ban picketing near a courthouse, Mutha reasoned that the public officials could have relied on that decision in ordering Huminski out of the courthouse.

Mutha also held that the governmental units could not be held liable in Huminski’s lawsuit because the alleged violations did not arise out of a policy or custom and Huminski’s allegations were conclusory in nature.

The underlying dispute arose in late May when Huminski parked his van at the courthouse parking lot. According to the court, Huminski’s van contained “posters describing [state] Judge Nancy Corsones’ alleged subversion of the Constitution.” After police officers and court employees unsuccessfully demanded that Huminski remove his van, Huminski entered the courthouse to observe court proceedings. Two hours later, he was served with notices of trespass and ordered to leave the courthouse.

(Huminski v. Rutland Police Dep’t; Media Counsel: Robert Corn-Revere, Washington, D.C.)

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