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Strange v. Islamic Republic of Iran

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

June 5, 2014

CHARLES STRANGE, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, et al, Defendants

For PHOUTHASITH DOUANGDARA, On Behalf of John Douangdara, his son, Plaintiffs: Larry E. Klayman, LAW OFFICES OF LARRY KLAYMAN, Washington, DC.

For CHARLES STRANGE, On Behalf of Michael Strange, their son and stepson, MARY ANN STRANGE, On Behalf of Michael Strange, their son and stepson, DOUGLAS HAMBURGER, On Behalf of Patrick Hamburger, their son and stepson, SHAUNE HAMBURGER, On behalf of Patrick Hamburger, their son and stepson, Plaintiff: Larry E. Klayman, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF LARRY KLAYMAN, Washington, DC.

Page 79

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, United States District Judge.

Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' [11] Motion to Disqualify Judge Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 144. Plaintiffs move the Court to transfer this case to a different district court judge in order to prevent an " appearance of bias and prejudice" due to the undersigned judge being involved in " ongoing litigation" with Plaintiffs' Counsel. Pl.s' Mot. at 7. Upon a searching review of Plaintiffs' Motion,[1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record for purposes

Page 80

of this motion, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' [11] Motion. However, the Court will STAY this matter, except for service on Defendants, pending the resolution of Plaintiffs' recently filed Petition for Writ of Mandamus in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs filed the present lawsuit on March 18, 2014, on behalf of themselves and their sons and stepsons, alleging that the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hoseyni Khamenei, the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan Operational Coordination Group, Khasa Amalyati Qeta/Qeta-e-Khas-e-Amalyati or the Afghan Special Operations Unit, the Afghan National Security Forces, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda violated Plaintiffs' and decedents' rights, engaged in racketeering and other prohibited activities, engaged in international terrorism, harbored and concealed terrorists, provided material support to terrorists and terrorist groups, directly and proximately caused the deaths of Plaintiffs' decedents, and directly and proximately caused mental anguish, severe emotional distress, emotional pain and suffering, and the loss of society, earnings, companionship, comfort, protection, care, attention, advice, counsel or guidance. Compl., ECF No. [1], at 3. The genesis of these allegations is the deaths of members of Navy SEAL Team VI and other Special Operations forces shot down in their helicopter by the Taliban on August 6, 2011. Id. ¶ ¶ 16-18.

This case was assigned to the undersigned judge on March 18, 2014. On March 19, 2014, Plaintiffs' Counsel filed a Motion to Transfer Case Pursuant to Rule 57.13(A) on the basis that Plaintiffs' Counsel was engaged in " ongoing litigation" with the undersigned judge. See ECF No. [3]. Based on the grounds stated in Plaintiffs' pleadings, the Court treated Plaintiffs' Motion as a Motion for Recusal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455 and denied the same on April 8, 2014. See generally Mem. Op. (April 8, 2014), ECF No. [5]. The Court denied Plaintiffs' Motion after finding that " a judge is not required to recuse him or herself merely because a party files suit against him" and that " [g]ranting a motion to recuse solely because a party has sued the judge would transform such motions to recuse into vehicles for judge shopping." Id. at 2-3. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a Motion to Reconsider the Court's April 8, 2014, Memorandum Opinion, which the Court denied. See Mem. Op. (April 15, 2014), ECF No. [10], at 3.

On May 8, 2014, Plaintiffs filed the [11] Motion to Disqualify Judge Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 144 presently before the Court. Before the Court was able to rule on Plaintiffs' Motion, Plaintiffs' Counsel filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus with the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seeking to have the Court of Appeals compel the undersigned judge to remove herself from this case either by recusal or disqualification. See generally Notice of Petition for Writ of Mandamus, ECF No. [13-1]. Plaintiffs' Petition for Writ of Mandamus remains pending before the Court of Appeals.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Recusal of a judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 144 is appropriate " [w]henever a party to any proceeding in a district court makes and files a timely and sufficient ...


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