Federal judge dismisses matter over attorney conduct

By The Madison County Record | Sep 26, 2012

U.S. District Judge Patrick Murphy has dismissed the matter over a St. Louis attorney's conduct during a telephone conversation with his law clerk.

Murphy on Aug. 17 ordered Paula Givens, an attorney with the National Labor Relations Board, to show cause as to why she shouldn't be sanctioned or held in contempt of court for being "inappropriate and unprofessional" during the conversation.

Givens appeared before Murphy on Monday, when she explained the circumstances surrounding the conversation at issue, indicated she made a mistake and apologized to anyone she may have offended, said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Porter.

Porter, whose office represented Givens, said Murphy accepted her apology, discharged the matter and "welcomed her to practice in his courtroom at any time."

The order to show cause stemmed from an Aug. 3 telephone conversation between Givens and Murphy's law clerk, Kelly Crosby.

In an affidavit attached to Murphy's Aug. 17 order, Crosby wrote that Givens called her direct office line in East St. Louis for help finding a document she needed for a pending appeal in one of her cases.

Crosby stated in her affidavit that Givens immediately asked about Jeff Schultz, one of the judge's former law clerks, and went on to explain she was calling "about that sh**ty order Jeff wrote in my case."

Givens, according to the law clerk's affidavit, asked Crosby to look through the court's proposed documents email folder to find an email she had sent Schultz.

In her affidavit, Crosby wrote that she told Givens they don't archive the proposed documents email folder, a response that spurred Givens to ask if she could check Schultz's old emails.

Crosby told her she couldn't and asked Givens if she had a record of the emails she sent to Schultz.

Givens, according to Crosby's affidavit, told her, "If you want me to say I'm a dumbass who deletes my emails, then yes, I'm a dumbass."

Crosby described Given's tone as "confrontational, impertinent and disgruntled" in the affidavit she signed on Aug. 17. Crosby reported the incident to Murphy on Aug. 6.

On behalf of Givens, Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Christopher Moore on Sept. 18 filed a response to Murphy's order.

In the response, Moore wrote that "Givens acknowledges that the telephone conduct set out in the affidavit of Ms. Crosby was inappropriate and unprofessional" and "that she spoke to Ms. Crosby in a rude and unacceptable manner."

"Ms. Givens expresses her sincere regret regarding her conduct and respectfully apologizes to both this Court and to Ms. Crosby for her careless conduct and assures both the Court and Ms. Crosby that she did not intend any disrespect to either," Moore wrote in the response.

Moore also noted that while Givens offers no excuse for her conduct, she had become emotionally concerned about the clients she was representing in the pending appeal, which was the subject of her phone conversation with Crosby.

"She affirmatively advises both the Court and Ms. Crosby that her ill-advised remarks were a result of the emotional attachment to the underlying parties and a fear that the issue regarding the administrative transcript might hurt them," Moore wrote in Givens' response.

"She also acknowledges that they were also an exceptionally clumsy and ineffective attempt at humor, which she now understands were easily construed as outright disrespect," Moore wrote. "If she could retract the remarks, she would do so in an instant."

In the response, Moore wrote that Givens takes full responsibility for her actions and asked Murphy "to consider that, in the course of her 19 year legal career, she has never before engaged in or been cited for any unacceptable acts or conduct."

On top of apologizing to Murphy and Crosby, Moore wrote that Givens "genuinely apologizes on behalf of, and also to, the National Labor Relations Board for any embarrassment she has caused her employer, from who she also faces disciplinary action for her conduct."

Court records show Murphy filed his dismissal Monday and the court closed the case Tuesday.

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