As members of the Pennsylvania judiciary gathered from across the state in Hershey at an annual conference, Judge Bissoon strategically chose that moment to unleash a reign of deliciously scandalous material in a scathing opinion. In Crystal Starnes vs. Judge Thomas Doerr et al, the Harvard educated Judge leveraged some of the most strongly worded criticism towards Judge Doerr that I think I have ever read in any federal judicial opinion. As Judges from across the state gathered to enjoy sophisticated field-talk, fine dining and expensive cocktails, I’m sure the news was a shocking piece of whispered, sordid-like gossipy conversation, and most certainly ruined Thomas Doerr’s night by embarrassing him in front of hundreds of his own peers. After reading the opinion Bissoon wrote, I have no doubt she took some pleasure in causing him such painful humiliation. And undoubtedly, after reading that Opinion, it appears to be well deserved.
AND SO IT BEGAN……
The Plaintiff, Crystal Starnes, has purportedly been off of work, as she was put on administrative leave due to inexplicable beaurocratic-like confusion, (i.e. retaliation) – insofar as to what Judge Bisson interprets, it seemed to be and was a sheer act of retaliation – after refusing to comply with the sexual favors Thomas Doerr was attempting to shamelessly extort from her by way of threats and intimidation (ostentatious abuses of authority). Starnes, an ACTIVE Butler County probation officer (now on FMLA leave due to the injuries suffered) – has been vocal and unashamed in exposing a very cowardly bully who is widely known and believed to be Butler County’s own sex-predator, with overly inflated sense of self importance, and entitlement: A white Bill Cosby, nestled comfortably in a black robe, purportedly using his power to threaten, extort, bribe, intimidate and abuse his power for YEARS in a tyrannical and compulsive need for selfish sexual gratification.
In December 2004, Plaintiff met Doerr at a Christmas party. Id., at ¶ 10. At the Christmas party, Doerr flirted with Plaintiff, commented on her attractiveness and suggested that they should stay in touch. Id., at ¶ 13. Doerr and Plaintiff eventually exchanged cell phone numbers. Id. Doerr called Plaintiff numerous times after the party requesting that they meet. Id., at ¶ 14. He invited Plaintiff to “visit him or meet him at his chambers.” Id. Initially, Plaintiff declined Doerr’s invitations. Id. In February 2005, however, Doerr finally persuaded Plaintiff to meet him in his chambers. Id., at ¶ 15. After Plaintiff entered Doerr’s chambers, Doerr began kissing Plaintiff and insisted that they engage in sexual intercourse. Id. Although Plaintiff insists that the sexual intercourse was not welcome, she did engage in sexual intercourse with him. Id., at ¶ 16. Following the intercourse, Doerr commented that their sexual interactions would be a “business relationship.” Id., at ¶ 16-17. [CITATION: Crystal Starnes vs. Butler County Court of Common Pleas et al; Opinion filed July 26; BY Federal Judge Cathy Bissoon, Eastern District].
It should be noted that Butler County Courts and Criminal Justice system are not unfamiliar with sex scandals. Take for instance, the rampant rumors (possibly available through right-to-know request of Judge Thomas Doerr sending “dick pictures” around to female courthouse employees. Or the ADA, Terry Shultz, who was purportedly also sleeping with Judge Doerr. Wasn’t it Terry Shultz who almost got her two time DUI offender boyfriend off, screeching to the officers “try and arrest me, I dare you,” when they asked her to take a cab home as they loaded him into their squad car? CITATION: ADA TERRY SHULTZ “ARREST ME IF YOU DARE.”CITATION Or what about the female public defender who also entered into a sexual relationship and was so harassed and bothered by the working conditions that she moved her license to Florida and now practices there.
In Centre County, the People were up in arms, and prolifically angered over ex parte communication that occurred via text messages from former District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller to the Judges. They were up in arms over photographs on facebook depicting the DA with Judges at social events. Imagine the shock and outrage should they have gotten proof or heard rumors so repetitive they were pretty much assumed fact, that the Judge was engaging in naked ex parte communication. Imagine that, the prosecutor in a case is sleeping with the Judge, exchanging “dick pictures” after a hearing…… Judicial impropriety in it’s most disgusting form. I believe each and every case these two presided over should be overturned and granted a new trial. But screw me for believing in the constitutionally guaranteed integrity and impartiality of our American judicial system. I perhaps have set me standards far too high to even conceive of this bull shit coming out of Butler County.
Pretty much every courthouse department is a wreck with scandal and purported abuses, see Click here to read about ADA Richard Bosco’s suspension. He subsequently quit.
Or check out the rumors and reports of pedophelia by CLICKING here to read about a probation officer’s inappropriate engagement with a minor.
Happy Valley Citizen has been following Butler County for years now, and the stories only continue to get more shocking and appalling. Long before Judge Bisson’s opinion was released, I published a story exposing Judge Doerr and the sexual abuses he engaged in with his subordinates.
FEDERAL JUDGE BASSOON OPENS POINTEDLY WITH A LIST OF GRIEVANCES PAINTING THE PORTRAIT OF TOM DOERR, A MAN WITH A CLEAR SEX ADDICTION & LACKING OF ANY MORAL FIBER
The caustic opinion opens with the Judge outlining, in concise bullet points, Judge Doerr’s disgusting behavior and list of sins:
After the sexual relationship ended, Doerr continued to influence and control Plaintiff. Id., at ¶ 26. Among other things, Doerr’s conduct—after the sexual relationship ended—included:
- Requesting that Plaintiff film herself performing sexual acts, Id., at ¶ 26;
- Demanding that that the two interact in a normal manner, despite their previous sexual relationship, Id., at ¶ 31;
- Using his position to force Plaintiff’s continued interaction with him by assigning her duties that required her to be in his court, Id.;
- Telling Plaintiff that judges were unhappy with her using a standardized order despite Plaintiff never receiving a complaint regarding her use of this order, Id., at ¶ 36;
- Making Plaintiff feel uncomfortable, forcing social interactions, singling her out and “looking her over,” Id., at ¶ 40;
- Loudly announcing Plaintiff’s presence in court and coyly waiving at her from behind his computer while on the bench, Id.;
- Holding Plaintiff’s hand while explaining that he could help her return to her previous job, Id., at ¶ 44; and
Interrupting Plaintiff while she was speaking with male staff, Id., at ¶ 70.
[CITATION: Crystal Starnes vs. Butler County Court of Common Pleas et al; Opinion filed July 26; BY Federal Judge Cathy Bissoon, Eastern District].
The emphasis of this opinion is not in how the relationship started. No where in Starnes complaint does she claim to be the victim of a sexual assault or rape, and no where in the judicial opinion does the Judge even begin to skew the facts to insinuate she was. By all accounts the affair that began was consensual and voluntary; however, it was what happened after Starnes broke off the affair that has this Judge flaming mad.
In no way shape or form does the Judge, or Crystal Starnes or myself advocate that is alright to sleep your way into a job, but these sort of things happen every day. To Starnes defense, she was single, unencumbered by any romantic relationship at the time the relationship began and naive as to how these corrupt power players rolled. And regardless of any way you slice the morality aspect of this, ultimately it was the Judge who had the hiring power, and it was Judge Doerr who chose his candidate for an employee habit based on sexual attractiveness and not merit. Starnes, if you look at it, really had no power throughout this entire thing. Little did she know or little did Doerr know, the small town girl-next-door’s relationship with Butler County’s most powerful political powerhouse would end in an epic lawsuit, where Starnes would end up exposing Butler County’s most influential political players as the fraud he is, as Plaintiff in a whistleblower suit. It’s the classical David and Goliath tale, as she took on Goliath and against all odds won. There are multiple women within the Butler County Courthouse, county employees, who are secretly rejoicing in her victory and her doing what no other Doerr victim has had the audacity to do before her.
THE HIGHLY CONTESTED “RELEASE”
So when Judge Bissoon writes this hot-tempered opinion ripping Judge Doerr, she is focusing on what transpired AFTER Starnes broke off the relationship. Doerr behaved like a jilted middle schooler who retaliated against the perceived rejection of his first girlfriend. He interfered with her ability to do her job, he interfered with the way her peers and supervisors perceived her, he interfered with her personal relationship with her fiance, he interfered with almost every aspect of her life. When she was noncompliant and he harassed her husband (20 plus year veteran probation officer) to the point where he was hospitalized for a significantly (likely stress related) high blood pressure and debilitating chest pains. Shortly thereafter, with these health concerns in mind, he went into early retirement after a long 20 plus year spotless career with Butler County Probation and Parole Department. The stress was systemic and effected Starne’s entire family. When she was still noncompliant and requested transfer out of his courtroom, he ensured ALL of her posts were in his courtroom. He manipulated and conspired with her supervisors (also his subordinate employees) to ensure that she was written up for seemingly arbitrary infractions. When she still refused to return his advances, he orchestrated and conspired to unsuccessfully attempt to have her fired, but her human resources file was flawless up to that point and he had little to go on. When she protested and threatened to file a complaint with EEOC, he offered her the job back, but on one condition: She had to sign a release first.
Judge Bissoon actually approaches the topic of this release in her opinion. Plaintiff Starnes argues that the release should not be included in considering her cause of action, as the release her counsel signs bars her from filing a suit. Defendant Doerr argues that the release absolutely should be considered because in signing it, Starnes waived her right to file a lawsuit. The Judge says the release IS absolutely a document that will be considered in this matter because in Doerr producing the release and forcing Starnes to sign it, he is setting up an “affirmative defense.” And why would anyone ever need to set up a defense if no tort had been committed? Doerr offered her job back, thinking with the release he could skate by and avoid any civil lawsuit. How wrong he was! Judge Bissoon transparently put this together in her opinion. The release is an essential part of this case, because Judge Doerr in producing and insisting on a release was circumventzally admitting guilt. Why the release if no transgression ever occurred in the first place?
THE DOCTRINE OF INTIMATE ASSOCIATIONS/RELATIONS – A UNIQUE & HIGHLY APPROPRIATE FIRST AMENDMENT APPLICATION BY FEDERAL JUDGE CATHY BISSOON
Another very important and very fascinating piece of the argument in Judge Bissoon’s opinion has to do with the Doctrine of Intimate Relationships as they relate to constitutional First Amendment rights. This particular argument surfaced just years ago as the federal courts were deciding whether or not to legalize same-sex marriages. The ultimate deciding factor was the first amendment of the constitution, which cannot be otherwise but to be interpreted as the government has no authority to interfere with private domestic relationships between intimate couples. The same sex marriage federal decision was based on the supposition that this clause within the constitution did not discern that the government had no right to interfere with intimate relationships between man and women, or man and man, or woman and woman. But even more fundemental and rudimentary, in this case, a government official is using his authority to interfere with a traditional man and wife relationship. Judge Bissoon argues, and pretty convincingly, that this is a first amendment violation as it is government interference into an intimate relationship.
Here is Bissoon’s perception of this:
Viewing the above allegations in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court finds that Doerr’s alleged continued interference with Plaintiff’s constitutionally-protected relationship forms a sufficient basis for an intimate association claim at this juncture. Plaintiff’s SAC alleges that she started an intimate relationship with her now husband and that Doerr interfered with that relationship by levying hostile remarks towards Plaintiff and her husband. 3 Compl., at ¶ 33-34. Further, with Doerr’s supervision and approval, Plaintiff’s husband “became a target of harassment” at work. Id., at ¶ 34. Combined with the previous allegations of Doerr’s unwanted sexual advances and social control of Plaintiff, the most reasonable inference drawn from these allegations is that Doerr levied this hostility to interfere with Plaintiff’s marriage, which is a constitutionally-protected relationship. [CITATION: Crystal Starnes vs. Butler County Court of Common Pleas et al; Opinion filed July 26; BY Federal Judge Cathy Bissoon, Eastern District].
GENDER DISCRIMINATION VS. HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT – WHY JUDGE BISSOON REJECTS THE GENDER DISCRIMINATION CLAIM IN FAVOR OF THE HOSTILE WORKPLACE CLAIM
Yet another interesting aspect to this Opinion is the Judges opinion on Gender Discrimination vs. Hostile Workplace Claims. Bissoon dismisses the Gender Discrimination claim. Notably, weeks early, Starnes counsel had filed to waive this particular cause of action, but Bisson chooses to address the Gender Discrimination claim regardless. Bissoon seems to be particularly adament in expressing the reasons why Gender Discrimination is not an appropriate cause of action, whereas the Hostile Work Environment was highly appropriate. The definitions of the two claims under title nine are very similar, except that the Hostile Work Environment lacks the gender specific lexus and terms contained in the Gender Discrimination claim. Both title IX definitions essentially amount to the same result, except the Gender Discrimination claim is more narrowly defined with the perpetrators action motivated by gender rather than general malignanct animosity towards the victim/subject (for whatever reasons, other than those manufactured as a result of gender, sex, religious, race etc orientation).
Even if the Court does not consider Plaintiff’s and Doerr’s alleged sexual relationship, Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim still is viable. Plaintiff alleged that after the sexual relationship concluded, Doerr, among other things, requested that Plaintiff film herself performing sexual acts. Additionally, Doerr forced unwelcome social interactions upon Plaintiff, including some interactions that constitute sexual harassment. These alleged incidents continued well into the statute of limitations period and are actions sufficiently connected to constitute a continuous violation. Further, the SAC is littered with allegations of varying degrees of sexual harassment that Doerr levied, which more than sufficiently alleges severe and pervasive discrimination that detrimentally affected Plaintiff. Thus, Plaintiff has adequately alleged that Doerr created a hostile work environment. [CITATION: Crystal Starnes vs. Butler County Court of Common Pleas et al; Opinion filed July 26; BY Federal Judge Cathy Bissoon, Eastern District].
By returning the focus to hostile workplace environment, Judge Bissoon is essentially widening the net. Gender discrimination, to some extent, falls into the hostile workplace claim because gender discrimination by it’s end result creates a hostile work environment. Also as the cause of action survived initial pleading stage and is now entering discovery, the focus on the hostile workplace environment vs. gender discrimination widens the scope of discovery. As in now the Plaintiff may ask about any form of threats, intimidation, scare tactics and/or retaliation in the course of discovery, and all of it will be admissible, regardless if it was gender related.
JUDGE BISSOON ACKNOWLEDGES THE HIGH POSSIBILITY THAT THERE ARE MULTIPLE VICTIMS TO SEX ABUSE IN THE BUTLER COUNTY COURTHOUSE
Judge Cathy Bissoon even goes so far to imply she knows what most people in Butler already suspect: There are multiple victims hiding out in the woodwork. In which case, I hope these women or men come forward. Retaliation in the workplace, particularly by authority, for sex related or any other personal related percieved slights is not a healthy work environment, and not one that is tolerated outside of government in the “real world.” Judge Doerr, had he worked for IBM or Equifax or some corporate America entity, would have been fired so fast his ass would have had whiplash. And he wouldn’t have been given some sweet pension or severance package, he would have been kicked out the door and blacklisted from his entire professional community. Only in the judiciary are people so special where they can get away with behavior like this. The insinuation that Judge Bissoon makes (see sentence below in red), that there are multiple victims, is a chilling insinuation. But by all accounts in the Butler Courthouse rumor mill, it’s a likely very true premonition this Harvard educated federal Judge eludes to.
Additionally, Plaintiff alleged that her charge indicated the manner in which Holman, Ritson and Doerr discriminated against her. Id., at 74.4 Because the subject of Plaintiff’s alleged communications concerned Doerr’s inappropriate conduct, it concerned a publicly elected official’s impropriety. This certainly constitutes a matter of public concern. Plaintiff has pleaded more than general workplace complaints that only concern herself. [CITATION: Crystal Starnes vs. Butler County Court of Common Pleas et al; Opinion filed July 26; BY Federal Judge Cathy Bissoon, Eastern District].
MISGUIDED PUBLIC REACTION
What is really fascinating to me has been the amount of uneducated and ill informed hecklers who truly lack an understanding as to rules of judicial conduct, and have been victim shaming and pointing the finger at the probation officer Starnes in this matter when their bony fingers should be pointed at Doerr. The commentary on social media seems to focus on the fact that Starnes purportedly entered into a sexual relationship willingly, and negates any responsibility on the part of elected Judge Doerr that he should not have allowed that relationship to start in the first place (let alone instigating it), and if and when it had started, Doerr should have seen the ethical and moral conflict inherent within his actions after she ended it, and he presumed to continue to manipulate her, threaten her and retaliate. And in manipulating her, threatening her and retaliating against her, he summoned up his own authority and powers granted to him by way of his elected position to do so. It’s a clear abuse of power, and it’s an unapologetic abuse of authority. The signing of the release was just another indication of how brazenly inappropriate he could act, all the while thinking he could get away with it. If Doerr is to abuse these powers in such a lackadaisically arrogant and flippant sort of way, imagine how loose he might be with the laws when they really come down to mean something, i.e. deciding the fate of criminal defendants.
There is another aspect to “forgiving” the transgressions of Doerr, and that is “Well he already said he is retiring in 2020 so he’ll be gone anyway.” Rumor has it he is retiring to Florida. But just because he is out of office voluntarily in a couple of years does not mean that Butler County should excuse this type of behavior because it’s going to go away. It is important to 1. Make an example out of Doerr to dissuade other Judges and courthouse officials from breaking the law; and, 2. See to it that there are consequences. I understand Doerr is retiring and supposedly does not intend to practice law, but civil penalties should be had. And the civil penalties should extend to the Butler County Court of Common Pleas. Clearly this was a multi-department issue with a threatened EEOC investigation potentially being attached to it (Doerr doesn’t respond to reasoning, only threats of legal action and bad publicity), and Judge Doerr’s sexual escapades with multiple courthouse employees were so widely known in inner circle gossip rings that they were pretty much accepted as fact. For years the county has turned a blind eye to this lecherous and unseemly behavior, and finally when the shit did hit the fan, they are suddenly acting shocked by the news, and skating by without any civil culpability – as Judge Doerr is named in his personal capacity only.
In my view, Butler County knew for years that this sordid activity was occuring on their premises, by a sitting Judge, with multiple county employees subordinate to him, and they had ample opportunity and time to prevent it. But they did not prevent it, they turned and looked the other way, unjustifiably elevating Doerr’s authority above and beyond the basic constitutional rights of county employees. They had a chance to stop it, and a chance to prevent it, but they were complicit, cooperative in the corruption, and they sat on their hands. They let Doerr dictate the courses of these females’ careers based on his satisfaction with their sexual performance and compliance with his compulsive, impulsive and grotesque sexual demands (spawned out of constant need for ego-stroking and male-menopause like symptoms). The Butler Court System Administration had many years to address these personnel issues and chose not to. They chose to put the overwrought self-importance and ego of a public servant before the basic rights and needs of longtime county employees.
In that way, I do believe that Judge Doerr should be named in as a Defendant in his official capacity. The lesson to be learned here and the accountability that needs to be had is not only by Judge Doerr, it’s by an entire courthouse administration who chose to let this thing go on under their watch. In the first sentence of Judge Bissoon’s opinion, she pointedly makes an effort to emphasize how Judge Doerr was ONLY sued in his personal capacity, also inferring that he should be sued in his official capacity – likely for the same reasons I have. This was a failure of ethics, law and morality not just on a singular front, but by a whole community who knew of Doerr’s disgusting behavior and let him run with it.
Many people involved in this failure should be subject to civil damages for their negligence and failure to act. Judge Doerr is an elected public servant who is not less subject to the governing laws than the people he sentences. The hypocrisy of this “moral authority” sitting there in a black robe, meanwhile violating the laws, should be something that incites political outrage. We elect judicial officers to protect us and implement the laws. This particular betrayal and hypocrisy is so utterly disgusting it defies logic. I think of this married Judge sitting on rape trials, meanwhile spending his spare time (which clearly he has too much of it) calculating and conspiring on how to illegally leverage his power so as to extort sex from victims he has complete and utter control to fire, hire and damage. What I can’t stop thinking about is how the county administration was fully aware, complicit and actually supportive of these actions, which is precisely why I think they should be named in Starnes lawsuit (Judicial opinion concurs) and held financially responsible. Clearly if the guilt of seeing injured parties and damages done by a sociopathic and conniving Judge won’t compel county authorities into doing the right thing, then perhaps a hefty civil penalty will prove my point. Make an example out of Doerr. Remove his pension, remove his law license and press criminal charges. The abuses will not stop until the right parties are held criminally and financially liable for the damages that occurred under their direct watch. A fat-cat government pension awarded to Doerr is like a slap in the face to every individual who votes and pays taxes in Butler County.
Punitive civil damages are to be had all around so that Butler County Courthouse cleans up it’s act. The sexual impropriety within that Courthouse is something of a Shakespearean tragedy, speckled with a little Jerry Springer and some porn hub throughout it’s disgusting history. The exposure of Judge Doerr, I hope, will be the beginning, as the sexual impropriety in that swamp is rumored to be endless with so many parts I can barely even keep track anymore of what people tell me.
The people of Butler need to put their foot down and say behavior like this by public employees will no longer be tolerated, and there will be consequences. These people in Butler County Court System go about serious business day-to-day, and clearly they have too much time on their hands if they are engaging in this soap opera behavior having sex on chambers’ floors and in police barracks. Maybe Butler needs to cut some personnel because clearly they have enough time to go about getting their freak on, meanwhile exposing taxpayers to civil suits and treating this whole system like a joke, or their own personal brothel. A little less dick pics and a little more working, and yes, I think some heads are about to roll – particularly if the Starnes case goes through discovery and documents start getting subpoenaed and people start getting deposed. Heads will roll.