9th Circuit, Bad Ideas, Prisons, Pro Se Litigants, Romance and Dating

ATL Practice Pointers: Clerks, Don’t Date the Prisoners

meet an inmate Above the Law blog.jpgA relationship between a prisoner — falsely accused, natch — and a compassionate woman on the outside, crusading for his release. What could be more romantic?
Well, if the woman happens to be a court clerk, with responsibility for handling prisoner filings, the situation goes from romantic to problematic. From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

A deputy clerk at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has been fired after striking up a romantic relationship with – and trying to help win the release of – a Washington man serving life in federal prison, court documents show.

Jane Cross, 57, came under scrutiny in June, after she filed a Washington State Bar Association complaint against Kurt Hermanns, an assistant U.S. attorney in Tacoma who handled the prosecution of William G. Moore on methamphetamine and other charges in the mid-1990s. She was placed on leave and subsequently fired last week.

In the immortal words of Def Leppard: Love bites.
More after the jump.

So what if Jane Cross was helping a prisoner out? Aren’t court employees supposed to give a helping hand to pro se litigants, however wacky?

The bar complaint [filed by Cross] accused [AUSA] Hermanns of committing perjury in Moore’s case — an accusation that appears unfounded — and made clear that Cross, who had handled filings in Moore’s case since 2000, was advocating for him, apparently in violation of her oath to remain impartial in carrying out her duty.

Oh, okay. Falsely accusing prosecutors of perjury? Guess that might be a problem.

“In addition to repeated expressions of affection and other intimate discussions, the conversations and letters from Ms. Cross [to her imprisoner paramour] demonstrate that Ms. Cross assisted Mr. Moore in researching, preparing and filing his pleadings in both the Court of Appeals and the District Court, that she used her position at the court to contact other individuals at the 9th Circuit and the District Court on Mr. Moore’s case, and that she worked on the bar complaint with Mr. Moore,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Helen J. Brunner wrote in a sworn declaration.

Beyond that, “a personal relationship between an inmate and a deputy clerk of the court does create a security risk to the institution,” Brunner and Seattle U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan wrote in another filing. “For example, that clerk could create a fictitious order of the court directing the inmate’s release and present that fictitious order to the Bureau of Prisons, thus facilitating an escape by the inmate.”

Court clerks: If a prisoner sends you sweet nothings through the prison mail, and asks you to intercede on his behalf, just say no. Quote Meatloaf: “I’d do anything for love, but I won’t do that.”
(God do we love this video! The last minute and a half brings us to the brink of tears.)
Deputy court clerk fired for relationship with prisoner [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

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