Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

COTTON v. WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY

May 28, 2003

RALPH B. COTTON, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Deborah A. Robinson, United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This action was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for full case management on July 13, 2001 (Docket No. 4). By a motion filed on April 17, 2003, Plaintiffs ask the undersigned to recuse herself from this action. As grounds therefore, Plaintiffs invoke § 455(a) of Title 28 of the United States Code, and maintain that the undersigned's rulings have deprived Plaintiff Ralph Cotton of "his right to conduct discovery and to advance this case to trial." Motion for Recusal (Docket No. 91) at 1.*fn1 Plaintiffs further maintain that the undersigned has "harm[ed] the interests of undersigned counsel's clients" in three other civil actions filed in this court by Plaintiffs' counsel. Id. at 2. In sum, Plaintiffs submit that the undersigned "has pursued a relentless pattern of pervasive bias against [counsel] and his clients[,]" and undertaken "an intentional effort to thwart any prospect of allowing [counsel's] clients to achieve any favorable resolution of their action on the merits." Points and Authorities in Support of [Plaintiffs'] Motion for Recusal ("Plaintiffs' Memorandum") at 31. In further support of their motion, Plaintiffs filed a three-inch thick, 704-page appendix, comprised of copies of motions, memoranda, exhibits and orders filed in the instant case and in the three other cases as to which Plaintiffs claim that the undersigned has harmed the interests of their counsel's clients.

Defendant opposes Plaintiffs' motion, principally on the grounds that (1) the proposition that the undersigned "is `out to get' plaintiffs' counsel . . . is without justification in fact," and (2) the orders entered by the undersigned in this action were well-founded and within the bounds of the undersigned's discretion. Defendant's Opposition to the [Plaintiffs'] Motion to Recuse Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson ("Defendant's Opposition") at 1. In addition, Defendant avers that Plaintiffs' counsel "has stubbornly refused to cooperate in scheduling and conducting discovery," and has thereby contributed to the delay in the conduct of discovery. Id. at 2.

Plaintiffs did not file a reply.

Upon consideration of Plaintiffs' Motion for Recusal, Defendant's opposition thereto and the entire record herein, Plaintiffs' motion will be denied.

DISCUSSION

Section 455(a) of Title 28 of the United States Code provides that

[a]ny justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
28 U.S.C. § 455(a). This court has held that
[t]o sustain its burden and compel recusal under Section 455(a), the moving party must demonstrate the court's reliance on an "extrajudicial source" that creates an appearance of partiality or, in rare cases, where no extrajudicial source is involved, the movant must show a "deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible."
Tripp v. Executive Office of the President, 104 F. Supp.2d 30, 34 (D.D.C. 2000) (citing Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 555 (1994)). The existence of a ground warranting recusal under Section 455(a) is to be determined by an objective standard. Id. (citations omitted); see also Liteky, 510 U.S. at 548; Holmes v. NBC/GE, 925 F. Supp. 198, 201 (S.D.N.Y. 1996). The court has broad discretion in the consideration of the sufficiency of a motion to remove a judicial officer pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455(a). Cobell v. Norton, 237 F. Supp.2d 71, 78 (D.D.C. 2003), citing James v. District of Columbia, 191 F. Supp.2d 44, 46-47 (D.D.C. 2002); see also Holmes, 925 F. Supp. at 201. In its determination of the motion, the court "must begin its analysis of the allegations supporting such a request with a presumption against disqualification." Cobell, 237 F. Supp.2d at 78 (citations omitted). In order to overcome the presumption, the moving party must demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that disqualification is required by Section 455(a). Id. at 78-79 (citations omitted); see also Holmes, 925 F. Supp. at 201 (citations omitted) ("There is a presumption of judicial impartiality, . . . and the burden the movant must carry to overcome this presumption is `substantial.'").

Claims Regarding Prejudice and Bias

Applying the applicable objective standard, the undersigned finds that Plaintiffs have failed to discharge their burden to show by clear and convincing evidence that disqualification under Section 455(a) is warranted. Plaintiffs' claim of bias is predicated entirely upon the undersigned's rulings with respect to the conduct of discovery in the instant action, and rulings regarding discovery and other issues in three other actions filed by Plaintiffs' counsel. However, it is settled that "[a] court's judicial rulings[,] . . . standing alone, `almost never constitute [a] valid basis for a bias or partiality motion.'" James, 191 F. Supp.2d at 48 (quoting Holmes, 925 F. Supp. at 201) (internal citations omitted); see also 12 C. Wright, A. Miller & E. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3066 (3d ed. 2002).*fn2 Plaintiffs offer no authority in support of the proposition that a judge's "appearance of impartiality" is "reasonably questionable" (Motion for Recusal at 1) solely by reason of the judge's course of rulings.

Moreover, "opinions formed by the judge on the basis of facts introduced or events occurring in the course of the current proceedings, or of prior proceedings, do not constitute a basis for a bias or partiality motion unless they display a deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible." Tripp, 104 F. Supp.2d at 34-35 (citing Liteky, 510 U.S. at 555). While Plaintiffs' counsel accuses the undersigned of "an unmistakable pattern of prejudice and bias" against him and his clients, including Plaintiffs (Motion for Recusal at 2), counsel points to no entry in the 704-page appendix or elsewhere which indicates that the undersigned has ever expressed any predisposition, animus or antagonism against him or any of his clients; nor does counsel suggest that the undersigned's supposed "prejudice and bias" stem from any "extrajudicial source." Rather, counsel relies almost entirely upon the oft-repeated conclusion that the undersigned has attempted to "thwart" his clients' interests in conducting discovery. E.g., Plaintiffs' Memorandum at 1, 6, 21, 23.

Finally, the undersigned finds that the irresponsible and scurrilous invective interspersed in Plaintiffs' account of the undersigned's course of rulings does not, either alone or in conjunction with the rulings, warrant recusal pursuant to Section 455(a).*fn3 These conclusory, wholly unsubstantiated claims are ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.