Muhammad et al v. AT&T, Incorporated et al
ORDER denying 13 Motion for Recusal. Signed by Chief Judge William H. Steele on 9/6/2016. Copies to party. (srd)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
KALIM A.R. MUHAMMAD, et al.,
AT&T INCORPORATED, et al.,
) CIVIL ACTION 16-0428-WS-C
This matter is before the Court on the plaintiffs’ motion for recusal, change
of venue and certification. (Doc. 13). According to the plaintiffs, “the[r]e has
been some bad blood between the court and the Plaintiff Kalim A.R. Muhammad,”
which they assert “cause[s] the appearance of manifest and per se bias.” (Doc. 13
at 2). While it is clear that Muhammad has been frustrated by his lack of success
in four previous lawsuits brought in the Southern District of Alabama, there is no
“bad blood,” unless it is his.
In Muhammad v. Bethel, Civil Action No. 10-0086-WS-B (“Muhammad
I”), Muhammad sued his former spouse, several state government agencies and
officials, and a private attorney on various claims concerning the raising of the
couple’s daughter. After providing Muhammad with extensive guidance on how
to craft a proper complaint, and after Muhammad’s fourth effort still fell woefully
short, the Court dismissed the action without prejudice. (Id., Doc. 20). The
Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal, noting that the Court “provided clear
instructions on how to fix the complaint’s deficiencies” and “twice warned
Muhammad” that he faced dismissal without prejudice if he did not correct them.
(Id., Doc. 26 at 5-6). The Eleventh Circuit also affirmed the Court’s denial of
Muhammad’s motion for default judgment against his former spouse, agreeing
that Muhammad never showed that she had been served with process. (Id. at 3).
In Muhammad v. Bethel-Muhammad, Civil Action No. 11-0690-WS-B
(“Muhammad II”), Muhammad sued the same defendants, plus two credit
reporting agencies, asserting 25 causes of action. The Court granted the agencies’
motions to dismiss, granted in part various other defendants’ motions to dismiss,
and granted all remaining defendants’ eventual motions for summary judgment.
(Id., Docs. 105-07, 138, 140, 246-49). The Court also denied various motions
filed by Muhammad. (Id., Docs. 32, 35, 60, 63, 75 76, 95, 99, 103, 112, 113, 124,
157, 158, 169, 177, 184, 255, 260, 263). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, ruling
that Muhammad’s notice of appeal was untimely as to all but one issue on appeal
and that he abandoned that issue. (Id., Doc. 269).
In Muhammad v. Muhammad, Civil Action No. 13-0030-WS-B
(“Muhammad III”), Muhammad sued the same defendants and several additional
ones as well. The Court dismissed the action without prejudice after Muhammad
failed to correct the complaint’s many deficiencies, (id., Doc. 39), and the
Eleventh Circuit again affirmed the dismissal as proper. (Id., Doc. 53).
In Muhammad v. Muhammad, Civil Action No. 14-0592-MW
(“Muhammad IV”), Muhammad sued many of the same defendants along with
several new ones, including the undersigned. The action was randomly assigned
to Judge DuBose, but Chief Judge Carnes of the Eleventh Circuit reassigned the
case to Judge Walker of the Northern District of Florida. (Id., Doc. 15). Judge
Walker adopted the Magistrate Judge’s report and recommendation and dismissed
the action for failure to comply with a court order (to properly plead his case) and
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Id., Doc. 33). The Eleventh Circuit
affirmed. (Id., Doc. 38).1
This is not Muhammad’s first motion for recusal. In Muhammad II, before
the Court had issued any rulings, he requested recusal because, in Muhammad I,
he had had “disagreements on procedural matters with the present judge.”
(Muhammad II, Doc. 34 at 5). The Court denied the motion because “[t]his is not
The Eleventh Circuit has recently withdrawn the mandate. (Id., Doc. 40).
grounds for recusal.” (Id., Doc. 35 at 3). After the Court granted the defendants’
motions to dismiss and/or for summary judgment, Muhammad again moved for
recusal, based on his assumption that his claims could not have failed for any
reason other than that the Court must be biased against him, “possibly being under
the influence of ‘masonic’ type fraternities.” (Id., Doc. 261 at 15). The Court
denied the motion by endorsement. (Id., Doc. 263). In Muhammad IV,
Muhammad filed no fewer than six motions for recusal, (Muhammad IV, Docs. 6,
10, 16, 20, 24, 27), all of which were denied. (Id., Docs. 23, 30, 33).
“Any … judge … shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his
impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” 28 U.S.C. § 455(a). “The standard
under § 455 is objective and requires the court to ask whether an objective
disinterested, lay observer fully informed of the facts underlying the grounds on
which recusal was sought would entertain a significant doubt about the judge’s
impartiality.” Bolin v. Story, 225 F.3d 1234, 1239 (11th Cir. 2000) (internal quotes
While the plaintiffs apparently question the Court’s impartiality, their
skepticism is not objectively reasonable. It is the nature of litigation that there are
winners and losers, and a judge is not partial because he performs the duty of his
office by ruling in favor of one side and against another. “Challenges to adverse
rulings are generally grounds for appeal, not recusal.” In re: Evergreen
Securities, Ltd., 570 F.3d 1257, 1274 (11th Cir. 2009). Thus, “except where
pervasive bias is shown, a judge’s rulings in the same or a related case are not a
sufficient basis for recusal.” Bolin, 225 F.3d at 1239. Although Muhammad has
failed in three cases decided by the Court, his record does not reflect judicial bias
but his inability to properly plead a cause of action or to properly defend legal
challenges to his complaints – as three affirmances by the Eleventh Circuit attest.
Muhammad’s purported suspicion that the Court is under the influence of secret
societies, even if genuinely held, is utterly divorced from reality and unsupported
by even a shred of evidence. And although the undersigned was named a
defendant in Muhammad IV, “[a] judge is not disqualified merely because a
litigant sues or threatens to sue him.” In re: Bush, 232 Fed. Appx. 852, 854 (11th
Cir. 2007) (internal quotes omitted); accord United States v. Studley, 783 F.2d
934, 940 (9th Cir. 1986); United States v. Grismore, 564 F.2d 929, 933 (10th Cir.
1977); Rodman v. Misner, 1988 WL 76545 at *1 (6th Cir. 1988).
Recusal is also required where the judge “has a personal bias or prejudice
concerning a party.” 28 U.S.C. § 455(b). “The bias or prejudice must be personal
and extrajudicial; it must derive from something other than that which the judge
learned by participating in the case.” United States v. Amedeo, 487 F.3d 823, 828
(11th Cir. 2007) (internal quotes omitted). The Court, which knows nothing of
Muhammad other than what it has learned by its participation in Muhammad I,
Muhammad II, and Muhammad III, has no such bias or prejudice against
Muhammad, and an objective outside observer could not think otherwise; simply
slinging around phrases like “bad blood” does not change that fact.
The plaintiffs’ motions for change of venue and for certification are efforts
to crack the same nut. Noting Muhammad’s failure in Muhammad IV, the
plaintiffs lament they “will never be able to get a fair trial even in another district
court in the 11th Circuit.” Thus, they propose that this action be transferred outside
the Eleventh Circuit – preferably, to some district within the Fourth or Sixth
Circuit. They propose that such a transfer be authorized by the Eleventh Circuit
by way of a “certified question” to that tribunal. (Doc. 13 at 2-3). They ask that
this procedure be followed even if they prevail on their motion to remand – on the
theory it will give Muhammad “a pass to file in the same Circuit [Fourth or Sixth]
for any federal matters in the future.” (Id. at 13).
There is no known provision of federal law for “certified questions” from a
district court to a court of appeals. At any rate, because the plaintiffs have no right
to a different judge in this action, they could have no right to a different venue for
the purpose of avoiding that judge or any other, so resort to the Eleventh Circuit
would be pointless. As to the proper forum for any future litigation, the plaintiffs
are asking for an “impermissible advisory opinion” on a question that is not ripe
for judicial resolution. National Advertising Co. v. City of Miami, 402 F.3d 1335,
1339 (11th Cir. 2005).
For the reasons set forth above, the motions for recusal, change of venue
and/or certification are denied.
DONE and ORDERED this 6th day of September, 2016.
s/ WILLIAM H. STEELE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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