United States District Court, District of Columbia
B. WALTON, United States District Judge
plaintiff, Montgomery Blair Sibley, seeks declaratory relief
and damages arising from assertions that the defendants,
former Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts and Clerk of the Court,
Angela O. Caesar, violated the plaintiffs First and Fifth
Amendment rights by failing to docket two motions submitted
by the plaintiff in a criminal case assigned to defendant
Roberts in which the plaintiff was the prior defense attorney
of record. See First Amended Complaint for Damages
and Declaratory Judgment ("Am. Compl.") at
¶¶ 5-6, 10, 15-18, 21-23, 30. Currently before the
Court is the Defendants' Renewed Motion to Dismiss
("Defs.' Mot."), the Plaintiffs Emergency
Motion for Pre-Trial Conference to Schedule Expedited
Disposition of Sibley's Third Claim ("Pl.'s Mot.
for Conf"), and Sibley's Verified Motion to
Disqualify the Honorable Judge Reggie B. Walton and the
Entire Bench of the U.S. District Court for the District of
Columbia ("Pl.'s Mot. for Recusal"). Upon
careful consideration of the parties' submissions,
Court concludes that it must deny both of the plaintiffs
motions and grant the defendants' motion to dismiss.
2007, the plaintiff appeared as counsel of record for Deborah
Palfrey in the case of United States v. Palfrey, a
criminal case that was assigned to Judge Gladys Kessler of
this Court. See Am. Compl., Exhibit ("Ex.") A
(Criminal Docket for Case #: 1:07-cr-00046 ("Palfrey
Docket")) (indicating that the plaintiff was the prior
attorney of record for Deborah Palfrey). Palfrey was charged
with various federal violations related to her alleged
operation of an interstate prostitution business.
See Indictment, United States v. Palfrey,
Crim. Action No. 07-46 (D.D.C. Mar. 1, 2007). In November 2007,
Judge Kessler granted the plaintiffs Application for Issuance
of Subpoenas in United States v. Palfrey, which
sought account information from telephone companies for
clients of Palfrey's escort service. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 12-13. Shortly thereafter, Verizon Wireless
responded to the subpoena by providing records containing
information for 815 account holders that the plaintiff
alleges were Palfrey's former escorts or clients.
Id. ¶ 13.
January 13, 2016, the plaintiff "deposited with
defendant Caesar" a motion that sought to modify a
restraining order in place in United States v.
Palfrey, id ¶ 15, so that he could make the Verizon
Wireless records public because, in the plaintiffs view,
those records constitute "matters of public concern,
" id ¶ 14. On February 3, 2016, defendant Roberts
issued an order denying the plaintiff leave to file the
motion because: (1) the plaintiff "ha[d] been suspended
from practicing before this Court"; (2) the plaintiff
had been "terminated as [Palfrey's] counsel";
and (3) the plaintiffs "motion purport[ed] to refer to
records subpoenaed on behalf of the defendant that it seems
would properly be in the possession of the attorney of record
for the defendant, not in [the plaintiffs] possession."
Defs.' Mot., Ex A (Order dated Feb. 3, 2016) at 1-2.
Pursuant to defendant Roberts' order, defendant Caesar
did not docket the plaintiffs motion. See Am. Compl.
¶ 16; see also id., Ex. A. (Palfrey Docket).
Subsequently, the plaintiff filed with defendant Caesar a
motion to reconsider, as well as a motion to disqualify
defendant Roberts. Am. Compl. ¶ 17, see also
id., Ex. B (Letter from the plaintiff to the Clerk's
Office (Feb. 8, 2016) ("Mot. to Reconsider")) at 1.
Defendant Roberts once again ordered defendant Caesar to not
docket these motions pursuant to his February 3, 2016 order.
Id. ¶ 18; see also id, Ex. B (Mot. to
Reconsider) at 1.
February 22, 2016, the plaintiff filed suit against
defendants Roberts and Caesar in the Superior Court for the
District of Columbia. See Complaint for Damages and
Declaratory Judgment at 1. The defendants filed a Notice of
Removal on March 28, 2016, removing the case to this Court.
See Notice of Removal at 1. On April 5, 2016, the
defendants filed a motion to dismiss. See
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss at 1. On April 12, 2016,
the plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint, see Am. Compl.,
thereby mooting the defendant's April 5, 2016 motion to
dismiss, see Barnes v. District of Columbia, 42
F.Supp.3d 111, 117 (D.D.C. 2014) ("When a plaintiff
files an amended complaint as of right within 21 days after
the filing of the motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b), (e), or
(f), the amended complaint becomes the operative pleading,
and any pending motion to dismiss becomes moot."
(internal citations omitted)), as well as his emergency
motion for a pre-trial conference, see Pl.'s Mot. for
Conf. at 1. On June 24, 2016, the plaintiff filed his motion
for recusal. Pl.'s Mot. for Recusal at 1.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
to 28 U.S.C. § 144, a party to any proceeding in
district court may seek to have another judge assigned to his
case provided that the party can demonstrate "that the
judge before whom the matter is pending has a personal bias
or prejudice either against him or in favor of any adverse
party." Section 144 requires that a party seeking
reassignment to another judge "make and file a
timely and sufficient affidavit . . . stat[ing] the facts and
the reasons for the belief that bias or prejudice
exists." LI A legally sufficient affidavit
"requires that facts be set forth with sufficient
particularity that 'would fairly convince a sane and
reasonable mind that the judge does in fact harbor the
personal bias or prejudice contemplated by the
statute.'" Walsh v. Comey, 110 F.Supp.3d
73, 77 (D.D.C. 2015) (quoting Strange v. Islamic Republic
of Iran, 46 F.Supp.3d 78, 81 (D.D.C. 2014)). The
affidavit "shall be filed not less than ten days before
the beginning of the term at which the proceeding is to be
heard" and it "shall be accompanied by a
certificate of counsel of record stating that it is made in
good faith." 28 U.S.C. § 144.
to 28 U.S.C. §455 (2012), a judge "shall disqualify
himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might
reasonably be questioned, " § 455(a), or when the
judge "has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a
party, " id § 455(b)(i). '"Recusal [for
impartiality] is required when a reasonable and informed
observer would question the judge's impartiality, '
while recusal for personal bias requires a showing of
'actual bias or prejudice.'" Ryan v.
FBI, 125 F.Supp.3d 1, 3 (D.D.C. 2015) (first quoting
SEC v. Loving Spirit Found., Inc., 392 F.3d 486, 493
(D.C. Cir. 2004); and then quoting Tripp v. Exec. Office
of the President 104 F.Supp.2d 30, 34 (D.D.C. 2000)).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Thus, to survive a motion
to dismiss for "failure to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the
complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face, '" Ashcroft v.
Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A
"claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged." Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556); see also Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns
Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994) (noting that
the plaintiff is entitled to "the benefit of all
inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged").
Although the Court must accept the facts pleaded as true,
legal allegations devoid of factual support are not entitled
to this assumption. See, e.g., Kowal, 16
F.3d at 1276. Along with the allegations made within the four
corners of the complaint, the court may also consider
"any documents either attached to or incorporated in the
complaint and matters of which [it] may take judicial
notice." EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial
Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997).