Federal judge orders St. Louis lawyer to appear before him over phone call to his law clerk

Bethany Krajelis Aug. 28, 2012, 11:48am

U.S. District Judge Patrick Murphy has ordered a St. Louis lawyer to explain why she shouldn't be sanctioned or held in contempt of court for a telephone conversation she had earlier this month with his law clerk.

In his Aug. 17 order, Murphy wrote that Paula Givens, an attorney with the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB), called his chambers on Aug. 3, "ostensibly to obtain ex parte assistance gathering documents" for a pending appeal in one of her cases.

"Ms. Given's request and overall demeanor was inappropriate and unprofessional in the extreme," Murphy wrote in the order that was accompanied by an affidavit from Murphy's law clerk detailing the Aug. 3 incident.

The order requires Givens to appear before the federal judge at a date and time that Murphy wrote would be set by separate notice. No separate notice could be found in electronic court records so it is unclear when Givens will make her appearance or if she already has.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, Givens had not yet returned a message seeking comment that was left at about 1 p.m. Monday. The person who transferred the call to Givens' work voicemail said she was out of the office Monday, but was expected to return Tuesday.

Murphy's law clerk, Kelly Crosby, wrote in her affidavit that at about 11:20 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 3 she answered a call made to her direct line at her East St. Louis office.

The caller, Crosby wrote, identified herself as Paula Givens, an attorney with the NLRB.

"She immediately said, 'So, Jeff doesn't work there anymore?' in reference to Jeff Schultz, a former law clerk to Judge Murphy," Crosby wrote. "I told her that was correct and she said, 'Huh, I take it he got fired.' I told her I couldn't say."

Givens, according to Crosby's affidavit, went on to explain that she was calling "about that sh**ty order Jeff wrote in my case."

"I replied 'that it's the Judge that issues the orders,'" Crosby wrote. "She said 'right...' in an incredulous tone of voice."

According to Crosby's affidavit, Givens told Crosby that her case was on appeal and needed her to look through "our proposed documents email folder to find where she had emailed Jeff a copy of the administrative record."

"I told her that we delete and do not archive from the proposed documents folder and directed her to check the docket as 'what's in the record is in the record,'" Crosby wrote. "She said 'well, can't you just look in Jeff's old emails?' I told her no."

Crosby stated in her affidavit that Givens "said she was trying to find documentation that chambers had received the administrative record because 'he must have relied on the record ... if not, the order was even shi**ier than I thought.'"

The affidavit stated that when Crosby asked Givens if she had a record of the emails she sent to Jeff, the NLRB attorney replied, "If you want me to say I'm a dumbass who deletes my emails, then yes, I'm a dumbass."

Crosby wrote that Givens told her she didn't understand why she couldn't get the information. Crosby stated in her affidavit that she told Givens to send her an email explaining what she was requesting and she would ask the judge.

"She said that her email would be 'much more pleasant than this call,'" Crosby wrote. "I said I hoped so."

Immediately after the call, Crosby stated that she emailed Murphy's courtroom deputy, Linda McGovern, to request notification if Givens called her directly. The affidavit did not say whether Crosby ever reached out to McGovern.

At about 12:24 p.m. that same day, Givens sent Crosby a follow-up email, according to Crosby's affidavit. The law clerk dubbed it as "nonbelligerent."

Crosby said in her affidavit that her telephone conversation with Givens lasted about five minutes and described the attorney's tone as "confrontational, impertinent and disgruntled."

"I field outside calls daily in chambers, from counsel, prisoners, the press and members of the public," Crosby wrote in her affidavit. "I have never taken a phone call wherein the caller used such coarse and aggressive language or was so antagonistic in tone."

Crosby noted that she did not immediately contact Murphy, who was working in Benton on Aug. 3, because "I wanted to give myself time to 'cool off' from the interaction with Ms. Givens."

Over the weekend, Crosby wrote in her affidavit, she "came to the conclusion that the call was inescapably inappropriate" and as such, reported the incident to Murphy on Monday, Aug. 6.


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