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Heffington v. Puleo

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 26, 2018

GUY W. HEFFINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
PAMELA PULEO; FREDERICK G. SUNDHEIM, JR.; and OUGHTERSON, SUNDHEIM & ASSOCIATES, P.A., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ERIC F. MELGREN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On February 2, 2018, the Court issued an Order granting Defendants' motions to dismiss and dismissing Plaintiff Guy W. Heffington's claims against all Defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction. Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's dismissal of his claims (Doc. 35). Because Plaintiff fails to satisfy any of the criteria that may support reconsideration of the Court's decision, his motion is denied.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         The underlying case involved a dispute over the proper handling of Plaintiff's grandmother's estate. Plaintiff failed to show that any of the Defendants had the requisite minimum contacts with Kansas to authorize the Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over Defendants. The Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims for lack of personal jurisdiction.

         Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration identifies four circumstances that he claims justify reconsideration: (1) “the Court has shown obvious bias in favor of the defendants, ” (2) the Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims on “a technicality, ” (3) if personal jurisdiction is required, it is established, and (4) the Court ignored all facts and evidence supporting the merits of the case. Plaintiff purports to bring his motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), which identifies grounds for relief from a final judgment, order, or proceeding.

         Defendants have filed responses to Plaintiff's motion arguing that it is really a motion to alter or amend a judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), and that Plaintiff's motion should be denied.

         II. Legal Standard

         A motion for reconsideration “filed within ten days after entry of judgment is considered a Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) motion.”[1] This Court may only grant a motion to alter or amend a judgment if Plaintiff can establish: “(1) an intervening change in the controlling law, (2) new evidence previously unavailable, and (3) the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice.”[2] In other words, relief may be granted if the Court “misapprehended the facts, a party's position, or the controlling law.”[3]

         III. Analysis

         A. Alleged bias by the Court

         Plaintiff accuses the Court of bias because it denied Plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel and because this Judge of this Court served as U.S. Attorney when Plaintiff's mother filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense (“DOD”) in 2006, and the U.S. Attorney's office filed a motion to dismiss that lawsuit.[4]

         First, that the Court issued an adverse legal ruling against Plaintiff does not serve as a basis for recusal or to allege bias.[5] Second, that this Judge served as U.S. Attorney when Plaintiff's mother brought suit against the DOD does not require this Judge to recuse himself in the current matter, brought over ten years later by a different Plaintiff.

         Judges have a duty to hear cases when there is no basis to recuse, and should only recuse themselves from a case “for good and sufficient reasons” and “never to avoid a difficult task or indulge a party.”[6] Whether a judge should recuse him or herself rests on an objective determination of “whether a reasonable person, knowing all the relevant facts, would harbor doubts about the judge's impartiality.”[7]

         Here, no doubt could reasonably exist about this Judge's lack of impartiality in this case. The 2006 civil lawsuit brought by Plaintiff's mother did not involve the same subject matter or events as those alleged here, Plaintiff was not a party to the action, and Plaintiff's mother is not a party to this action. To the extent any arguably attenuated connections exist between this suit and the 2006 lawsuit filed by ...


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