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Lynn v. McCurrie

United States District Court, D. Kansas

August 2, 2017

PATRICK C. LYNN, Plaintiff,
ANTHONY McCURRIE, et al., Defendants.


          J. THOMAS MARTEN U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff, Patrick C. Lynn, is a prisoner currently housed at El Dorado Correctional Facility in El Dorado, Kansas (“EDCF”). At the time of filing, Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility in Hutchinson, Kansas (“HCF”). Plaintiff filed this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against various KDOC staff members and Corizon employees alleging “23 criminal batteries/excessive use of force in violation of Plaintiff's 8th Amendment rights that occurred between 3/18/15 through 5/11/16”; deliberate indifference to his life-threatening medical condition; and retaliation. Plaintiff names ninety-seven defendants by name and an additional fifteen John or Jane Doe defendants.

         On July 17, 2017, the Court entered an Order (Doc. 19): finding that Plaintiff is subject to the “three-strikes” provision under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g); finding that Plaintiff failed to show that he is in imminent danger of serious physical injury; denying Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 3); and granting Plaintiff until July 31, 2017, to submit the $400.00 filing fee. The Order also provides that “[i]f he fails to pay the full fee within the prescribed time, the Complaint will be dismissed based upon Plaintiff's failure to satisfy the statutory district court filing fee required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914” and “[t]he failure to submit the fee by that date will result in the dismissal of this matter without prejudice and without additional prior notice.” (Doc. 19, at 5.)

         The Court received a letter (Doc. 20) from Plaintiff addressed to Magistrate Judge Waxse that the Court docketed as a motion to recuse. The letter states that Plaintiff “will followup w/formal recusal motions” against Magistrate Judge Waxse and the undersigned, “but in the meantime, [Plaintiff] request informally that both of you sanctimonious cretins simply recuse yourselves.” (Doc. 20, at 1.) To the extent that Plaintiff's letter seeks recusal of the undersigned, it is denied.

         Plaintiff claims that the undersigned is biased and “complicit in the criminal abuses ongoing against [Plaintiff].” These conclusory allegations lack any support and are completely unsubstantiated.

         There are two statutes governing judicial recusal, 28 U.S.C. §§ 144 and 455. Burleson v. Spring PCS Group, 123 F.App'x 957, 959 (10th Cir. 2005). For recusal under § 144, the moving party must submit an affidavit showing bias and prejudice. Id. (citing Glass v. Pfeffer, 849 F.2d 1261, 1267 (10th Cir. 1988)). The bias and prejudice must be personal, extrajudicial, and identified by “facts of time, place, persons, occasions, and circumstances.” Id. at 960 (quoting Hinman v. Rogers, 831 F.2d 937, 939 (10th Cir. 1987)). These facts will be accepted as true, but they must be more than conclusions, rumors, beliefs, and opinions. Id. Here, Plaintiff's conclusory allegations are merely rumors, beliefs, and/or opinions. Without an affidavit showing bias or prejudice and proper identification of events indicating a personal and extrajudicial bias, Plaintiff does not support a request for recusal under 28 U.S.C. § 144.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 455(a) and (b)(1) a judge “shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned” or if “he has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party.” 28 U.S.C. § 455(a) and (b)(1). Section (b)(1) is subjective and contains the “extrajudicial source” limitation. See Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540 (1994). Recusal may be appropriate “when a judge's decisions, opinions, or remarks stem from an extrajudicial source-a source outside the judicial proceedings.” United States v. Nickl, 427 F.3d 1286, 1298 (10th Cir. 2005) (citing Liteky, 510 U.S. at 554-55). Recusal is also necessary when a judge's actions or comments “reveal such a high degree of favoritism or antagonism as to make fair judgment impossible.” Id. (quoting Liteky, 510 U.S. at 555).

         Section 455(a) has a broader reach than subsection (b) and the standard is not subjective, but rather objective. See Nichols v. Alley, 71 F.3d 347, 350 (10th Cir. 1995) (citing Liljeberg v. Health Servs. Acquisition Corp., 486 U.S. 847, 858 n.7 (1988) and Liteky, 510 U.S. at 548). The factual allegations need not be taken as true, and the test is “whether a reasonable person, knowing all the relevant facts, would harbor doubts about the judge's impartiality.” Id. at 350- 51 (quoting United States v. Cooley, 1 F.3d 985, 993 (10th Cir. 1993)); Burleson, 123 F.App'x at 960. A judge has a “‘continuing duty to ask himself what a reasonable person, knowing all of the relevant facts, would think about his impartiality.'” United States v. Greenspan, 26 F.3d 1001, 1005 (10th Cir. 1994) (quoting United States v. Hines, 696 F.2d 722, 728 (10th Cir. 1982)). “The goal of section 455(a) is to avoid even the appearance of partiality.” Liljeberg, 486 U.S. at 860.

         The initial inquiry-whether a reasonable factual basis exists for questioning the judge's impartiality-is limited to outward manifestations and the reasonable inferences to be drawn from those manifestations. Nichols, 71 F.3d at 351 (citing Cooley, 1 F.3d at 993). “[T]he judge's actual state of mind, purity or heart, incorruptibility, or lack of partiality are not the issue.” Id. (quoting Cooley, 1 F.3d at 993). “The trial judge must recuse himself when there is the appearance of bias, regardless of whether there is actual bias.” Bryce v. Episcopal Church of Colo., 289 F.3d 648, 659 (10th Cir. 2002) (citing Nichols, 71 F.3d at 350).

         The Tenth Circuit has cautioned that “section 455(a) must not be so broadly construed that it becomes, in effect, presumptive, so that recusal is mandated upon the merest unsubstantiated suggestion of personal bias or prejudice.” Cooley, 1 F.3d at 993 (quoting Franks v. Nimmo, 796 F.2d 1230, 1234 (10th Cir. 1986)). A judge has “as much obligation . . . not to recuse when there is no occasion for him to do so as there is for him to do so when there is.” David v. City & Cnty. of Denver, 101 F.3d 1344, 1351 (10th Cir. 1996) (quotation omitted); Greenspan, 26 F.3d at 1005 (citation omitted). Judges have a duty to sit when there is no legitimate reason to recuse. Bryce, 289 F.3d at 659; Nichols, 71 F.3d at 351. Courts must exercise caution in considering motions for recusal in order to discourage their use for judge shopping or delay. Nichols, 71 F.3d at 351 (noting that § 455(a) is not “intended to bestow veto power over judges or to be used as a judge shopping device”); Cooley, 1 F.3d at 993 (noting that Congress was concerned that § 455(a) might be abused as a judge-shopping device).

         The Supreme Court has explained that “judicial rulings alone almost never constitute a valid basis for a bias or partiality motion.” Liteky, 510 U.S. at 555. When no extrajudicial source is relied upon as a ground for recusal, “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.” Id.

         The Court finds that no reasonable person would believe that the undersigned's previous rulings implicate the level of “deep-seated favoritism or antagonism” that would make recusal proper. Knowing all of the relevant facts, no reasonable person could harbor doubts about the undersigned's impartiality. Because the undersigned has a duty to sit and hear this case where there is no legitimate reason for recusal, Plaintiff's request for recusal is denied.

         Plaintiff has also filed a motion (Doc. 22) requesting a ten-day extension of time to pay the filing fee in this case. The motion alleges delay due to his impending transfer, and that unless the Court grants his motion for telephone access at Doc. 23, [1] he will be forced to resort to “snail mail” to contact family members for assistance if paying the filing fee. The Court will grant the motion for extension of time, thereby mooting Plaintiff's requests for telephone access.

         Plaintiff has also filed a motion (Doc. 27) seeking to pay the $400 filing fee in monthly installments of $100 per month. The court ...

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