An upstate court officer claims he was fired after exposing a “laughter yoga” class conducted by a clerk who had participants march around a courtroom giving each other Nazi-style salutes.
Matthew Campbell, who worked at the Warren County Courthouse in Glens Falls, saw the bizarre scene on a security monitor in 2019 and took a video of it with his cell phone.
The video shows Katherine Thompson, the chief clerk of the Warren County Family Court, conducting the lunch hour exercise while walking stiff legged and, after each salute, extending her right arm in the air in a “seig heil” movement associated with the Nazis.
Campbell took the video, which violated courthouse rules about photography, after his supervisor refused to do anything about the class, said his lawyer, James Tuttle.
“He just made a value judgment that it was more important to document the crazy stuff he was looking at than to comply with that rule,” Tuttle said.
He also sent the video to colleagues.
The matter went nowhere for two years until someone sent the tape to Chief Judge Janet DiFiore last year with an email that said, “Maybe the Warren County Family Court Chief Clerk and her clerks shouldn’t be goose-stepping around the courtroom, throwing up the Nazi salute. News would love this,” court records show.
But instead of Thompson being disciplined, Campbell had his gun privileges suspended and was reassigned to different courthouses.
He was fired in May and has filed a court action to get his job back.
Thompson, who during Campbell’s disciplinary hearing denied that she was a Nazi sympathizer, said she was doing an “army laughter greeting” exercise from a book on laughter yoga, a discipline that is supposed to increase joy. She did not immediately return a request for comment.
“The event that instigated his actions was a sanctioned wellness event led by and for employees in a closed courtroom. Part of the yoga exercises included marching around the room, laughing and saluting one another,” said Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for New York’s Office of Court Administration.
He said Campbell’s actions “both during and after the event were deemed misconduct relative to his position as a court officer.”