United States District Court, D. Columbia
September 14, 2005.
DOROTHY HANDY, Plaintiff,
SHAW, BRANSFORD, VEILLEUX & ROTH, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: COLLEEN KOTELLY, District Judge
On June 22, 2005, Plaintiff in this action brought a Motion to
Stay Magistrate Judge Alan Kay from Proceedings Pending
Adjudication of Plaintiff's Pending Motions, along with an
accompanying Affidavit to Recuse. Defendants moved to strike
Plaintiff's Affidavit on July 7, 2005. Plaintiff essentially
requested that Magistrate Judge Kay recuse himself from
involvement in this case based on two grounds: (1) the
undersigned's alleged lack of authority to rule of certain
motions, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Civil Rule 72; and
(2) his alleged personal bias against Plaintiff.
In a Memorandum Order dated July 28, 2005, Magistrate Judge Kay
denied Plaintiff's Motion to Stay and also denied as moot
Defendants' Motion to Strike. See Handy v. Shaw, Civ. No.
00-2336, at 9 (D.D.C. July 28, 2005) (Magistrate Judge order
denying motion to recuse). Judge Kay's ruling was founded upon
two fundamental considerations. First, he concluded that he had
authority to rule on the identified motions pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A)-(B) and Local Civil Rule 72. Id. at 2. Because this Court's referral
was limited to only "all . . . discovery matters that may arise"
to the magistrate, the referral did not require the consent of
the parties, as contended by Plaintiff. Instead, stressed
Magistrate Judge Kay, "[c]onsent for referral to a magistrate
judge is only required when a magistrate judge is designated to
exercise civil jurisdiction under [S]ection 636(c)(1), or when a
case is referred to a magistrate judge for all purposes." Id.
at 3 (citations omitted). Second, Magistrate Judge Kay rejected
Plaintiff's assertions that he was biased against her. Id.
Because this was not a case in which his "impartiality might
reasonably be questioned," 28 U.S.C. § 455(a), Magistrate Judge
Kay considered Plaintiff's allegations in light of Section
455(b), which provides that a judicial officer should disqualify
himself "[w]here he has a personal bias or prejudice concerning
the party." 28 U.S.C. § 455(b). Magistrate Judge Kay's Memorandum
Order carefully scrutinized the existing record in this case, and
concluded by rejecting her motion for recusal for two reasons:
(1) Plaintiff failed to produce clear and convincing evidence
that disqualification was warranted, as her claim of bias was
predicated on subjective interpretations of his rulings that were
contrary to the record in this case and insufficient to
constitute "a deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that would
make fair judgment impossible," Handy v. Shaw, Civ. No.
00-2336, at 8 (D.D.C. July 28, 2005); and (2) Plaintiff's
broad-based statements accusing him of protecting counsel for
Defendants were conclusory and wholly unsubstantiated, id.
On August 15, 2005, Plaintiff filed a "Request for
Reconsideration to Magistrate Judge Kay's Memorandum Order and
Opposition to His Report and Recommendations, July 28, 2005," to
which Defendants filed a Memorandum in Opposition on August 24,
2005. Plaintiff's Request for Reconsideration challenges in part Magistrate
Judge Kay's July 28, 2005 Memorandum Order relating to her
recusal motion. Plaintiff makes three major arguments in the
context of recusal: (1) she claims that Magistrate Judge Kay
lacked the authority to decide her "Motion for Default Judgment
or in the Alternative to Show Cause Why Defendant and Its Counsel
should not Be Held in Contempt and Sanctioned," Pl.'s Req. for
Recons. at 7-9; (2) she asserts that Magistrate Judge Kay's
ruling incorrectly identifies the sequence of submitted motions,
thereby demonstrating his prejudice, id. at 5-6; and (3) she
contends that Magistrate Judge Kay issued several "conflicting
and contravening rulings," id. at 6-7.
Upon a review of the portion of Plaintiff's Request for
Reconsideration dealing with the recusal issue, it is clear that
Plaintiff's objections are without merit. Plaintiff's first claim
her argument that Magistrate Judge Kay lacked the authority to
decide her "Motion for Default" was already dealt with and
denied by this Court in its lengthy July 25, 2005 Memorandum
Opinion and Order. See Handy v. Shaw, Civ. No. 00-2336, at 9-10
(D.D.C. July 25, 2005) (omnibus discovery-related opinion and
order). As noted by the Court in that ruling, Plaintiff's motion
was best characterized as "discovery-related" because she was
essentially asserting that Defendants needed to be penalized for
the alleged obstruction of the discovery process in a deposition.
Id. at 10. Because she was seeking contempt or other corrective
and/or punitive actions for alleged discovery-related abuses by
Defendants, Plaintiff's motion was well-within the bounds
contemplated by Local Rule 72.2(a). Id. Given this Court's
previous holding, the Court rejects Plaintiff's efforts to
re-litigate this issue. Plaintiff's second claim, that Magistrate Judge Kay incorrectly
identified the sequence of submitted motions in his related July
28, 2005 Report and Recommendation, which dealt with how this
case should proceed, is equally without foundation. In one
paragraph of this Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Kay
notes that "Plaintiff moved for reconsideration of the June 1,
2005 Memorandum Order, including a request that the trial court
vacate the Order to Show Cause. See . Plaintiff's requests
were denied by the trial court in a Memorandum Opinion and Order
dated July 25, 2005." Handy v. Shaw, Civ. No. 00-2336, at 2
(D.D.C. July 28, 2005) (report and recommendation). In the
following paragraph, Magistrate Judge Kay begins, "Plaintiff then
moved for the undersigned to recuse himself from this case."
Id. Plaintiff implicitly argues that this shows Magistrate
Judge Kay's bias, as she actually submitted her motion for
recusal on June 22, 2005 i.e., before this Court's decision,
not after the July 25, 2005 ruling. Pl.'s Req. for Recons. at
5-6. A plain reading of Magistrate Judge Kay's order reveals
nothing to substantiate Plaintiff's argument. Rather, an equally
plausible reading is that Magistrate Judge Kay simply noted that
Plaintiff moved for reconsideration of his June 1, 2005 Order
(which this Court ultimately denied on July 25, 2005) and next
moved that he recuse himself on June 22, 2005. As such, he was
not somehow committing an "error of fact" and saying that she
filed a recusal motion after this Court's July 25, 2005 ruling;
instead, he was only taking a break from the sequential timeline
of events in order to use the reference to this Court's July 25,
2005 ruling to inform the reader of the ultimate disposition of
her motion for reconsideration. Moreover, even if Plaintiff's
interpretation was correct, and Magistrate Judge Kay's timeline
was actually inaccurate, it would not rise to the level of
deep-seated favoritism and antagonism necessary to constitute grounds for recusal.
Plaintiff's third and final argument, that Magistrate Judge Kay
is biased against her because he issued several "conflicting and
contravening rulings," id. at 6-7, is also without merit. Once
again, Plaintiff is simply rehashing arguments already decided by
this Court. In this Court's July 25, 2005 Memorandum Opinion and
Order, the Court noted:
Plaintiff now contends that Magistrate Judge Kay's
December 8, 2004 and April 6, 2005 Orders ignore this
Court's August 17, 2004 Order, wherein this Court
stated that Plaintiff had complied with the Court's
August 2, 2004 Order commanding Plaintiff to respond
to Defendants' discovery requests. See Handy v.
Shaw, Civ. No. 00-2336, at 1-2 (D.D.C. Aug. 17,
2004). However, Plaintiff fails to recognize that
this Court's August 17, 2004 Order simply noted:
"Plaintiff, by providing Defendants responses to the
discovery requests has complied with the Court's
[August 2, 2004] Order. If the responses are
deficient, Defendants, after good faith consultation
with Plaintiff, may seek the Court's intervention."
Id. at 2. Defendants did conclude that Plaintiff's
responses were inadequate, sought intervention from
the Court, and the Court agreed that Plaintiff's
responses were flawed. See Handy v. Shaw, Civ. No.
00-2336, at 5 (D.D.C. Dec. 8, 2005) (order by
Magistrate Judge Kay denying Plaintiff's Motion to
Compel and granting Defendant's Motion to Compel). As
such, there is no contradiction between this Court's
August 17, 2004 Order and Magistrate Judge Kay's
December 8, 2004 Order.
Handy v. Shaw, Civ. No. 00-2336, at 19-20 (D.D.C. July 25,
2005) (omnibus discovery-related opinion and order). Given that
Plaintiff's argument regarding "conflicting and contravening"
rulings is contrary to the record at hand and has already been
denied by this Court, the Court finds Plaintiff's rehashed
objection to be without foundation.
Ultimately, Plaintiff has failed to show that "justice
requires" that this Court reverse Magistrate Judge Kay's denial
of her motion for recusal. Plaintiff has not supported her
assertions of bias with anything in the record, and has instead
attempted to resurrect moribund arguments already rejected by
this Court. Accordingly, the Court shall deny Plaintiff's Request for Reconsideration as it relates to Magistrate Judge Kay's July
28, 2005 Memorandum Order denying her Motion to Stay him from
Proceedings Pending Adjudication of Plaintiff's Pending Motions.
An Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
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