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Middlebrooks v. St. Coletta of Greater Washington

May 7, 2010

LILLIE M. MIDDLEBROOKS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ST. COLETTA OF GREATER WASHINGTON, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff's Motion to Disqualify The Honorable Deborah A. Judge Robinson Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455(a), § 455(b)(1) ("Motion to Disqualify") (Document No. 61, Part 2) is pending for determination by the undersigned.*fn1 Upon consideration of the motion, Defendants' Response to Plaintiff's Motion to Disqualify Judge Huvelle and Magistrate Judge Robinson ("Defendants' Response") (Document No. 66) and the entire record herein, Plaintiff's motion to disqualify the undersigned will be denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff brings this action against St. Coletta of Greater Washington, Inc., and certain of its employees, for alleged discrimination in employment. See generally Complaint (Document No. 1). On November 9, 2009, this action was referred to the undersigned for the management of discovery. Order (Document No. 14). On April 21, 2010, Plaintiff filed the instant motion to Middlebrooks v. St. Coletta of Greater Washington, Inc., et al. 2 disqualify. In it, she principally alleges that the undersigned has "discriminatorily denied twenty-one of the Plaintiff's motions" and "set up all road blocks for the Plaintiff to secure legitimate and adequate discovery for Plaintiff's civil action lawsuit." Motion to Disqualify at 3; see also id. at 2, 8, 29-30. Plaintiff further submits that the undersigned's rulings "were and are prejudicial and biased [against] [her][,]" and "exhibited extreme preferential treatment toward the Defendants and [their counsel][.]" Id. at 29-30. Plaintiff alleges that the undersigned's bias "stems from the Plaintiff's race (African-American) and from the Plaintiff's representation status (pro se)." Id. at 2.

Defendants, in their response, characterize Plaintiff's motion as "groundless," and submit that disqualification of the undersigned is not warranted. Defendants' Response at 1; see also id. at 4-6.*fn2

DISCUSSION

The principal statutory authority which governs disqualification of a federal judicial officer is Section 455 of Title 28 of the United States Code. Section 455 provides, in pertinent part:

(a) Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

(b) He shall also disqualify himself in the following circumstances:

(1) Where he has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the Middlebrooks v. St. Coletta of Greater Washington, Inc., et al. 3 proceeding[.]

28 U.S.C. §455(a), (b)(1).

A party moving for recusal pursuant to Section 455(a) "must demonstrate the court's reliance on an 'extra-judicial source' that creates an appearance of partiality or, in rare cases, where no extra-judicial source is involved, . . . a 'deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible.'" American Center for Civil Justice v. Ambush, 680 F. Supp. 2d 21, 24-25 (D.D.C. 2010) (citing Cotton v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 264 F. Supp. 2d 39, 41 (D.D.C. 2003)) (citation omitted). The existence of a ground warranting recusal under Section 455(a) is to be determined by an objective standard. Id. at 25. (citations omitted); see also United States v. Marin, 663 F. Supp. 2d 155, 158 (D.D.C. Oct. 13, 2009) ("Accordingly, the legal standard is an objective one that inquires whether a 'reasonable and informed observer would question the judge's impartiality.'") (citation omitted).

A party moving for recusal pursuant to Section 455(b) "[must] demonstrate actual bias or prejudice based upon an extra-judicial source." American Center for Civil Justice, 680 F. Supp. 2d at 25 (citing Tripp v. Executive Office of the President, 104 F. Supp. 2d 30, 34 (D.D.C. 2000)); see also Zernik v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 630 F. Supp. 2d 24, 26 (D.D.C. 2009) (a judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge, inter alia, "has 'personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding[]'") (citation omitted); Ivey v. Nat'l Treasury Employees Union, No. 05-1147, 2008 WL ...


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