Ringgold et al v. Brown et al

Filing 119

ORDER signed by District Judge John A. Mendez on 5/18/17 ORDERING that plaintiff's 104 Motion to Vacate and for Other Relief is DENIED. (Kastilahn, A)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 9 NINA RINGGOLD, et al., 10 2:12-cv-00717-JAM-JFM Plaintiffs, 11 12 No. v. ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO VACATE AND FOR OTHER RELIEF JERRY BROWN, et al., 13 Defendants. 14 This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs’ “Motion to 15 16 Vacate for Disqualification and Intercircuit Assignment; and 17 Other Relief.” 1 18 Motion is denied. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs’ 19 I. 20 PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND AND RELEVANT FILINGS Plaintiffs are the Law Offices of Nina Ringgold and all 21 22 current clients thereof. Second Amended Complaint, ECF No. 72, 23 at 1. 24 prejudice, on January 22, 2013. 25 Second Amended Complaint on February 13, 2013, and subsequently This Court dismissed the First Amended Complaint, without ECF No. 65. Plaintiffs filed a 26 27 28 1 This motion was determined to be suitable for decision without oral argument. E.D. Cal. L.R. 230(g). The hearing was scheduled for May 16, 2017. 1 1 appealed the January dismissal, ECF No. 78. 2 dismissed the appeal, taking effect February 4, 2014. 3 91 & 92. 4 Jerry Brown, Commission on Judicial Performance of the State of 5 California, and Kamala Harris filed a Motion to Dismiss, which 6 was followed by Defendant Elaine Howle’s Motion to Dismiss. 7 Nos. 93 & 99. 8 Court granted both Motions to Dismiss with prejudice after 9 considering the merits of each. 10 The Ninth Circuit ECF Nos. The case sat for a year and a half before Defendants ECF Plaintiffs did not file any Opposition and this ECF No. 102 (Nov. 18, 2016). On October 18, 2016—a full month before the Court dismissed 11 the case—Plaintiffs filed a Request for Appointment of a Three- 12 Judge Court. 13 request, instructing Plaintiffs that a request to the Court by 14 any party must be filed as a properly noticed and served motion 15 with a hearing date. 16 Request as the Court instructed. 17 ECF No. 98. Two days later the Court struck the ECF No. 100. Plaintiffs did not refile the Plaintiffs subsequently filed the present Motion. ECF No. 18 104 (Dec. 16, 2016). 19 No. 112 & 113. 20 Plaintiffs filed a Declaration omitted from their Motion due to 21 “an error in conversion” on May 10, 2017. 22 Plaintiffs then filed their Reply, Request for Judicial Notice, 23 Exhibits, and Opposition to Defendants’ Request for Judicial 24 Notice on May 11, 2017. 25 Defendants filed timely Oppositions. ECF Plaintiffs’ Reply was due May 9, 2017. ECF No. 115. ECF Nos. 116, 117, & 118. “Not less than seven (7) days preceding the date of hearing, 26 the moving party may serve and file a reply to any opposition 27 filed by a responding party.” 28 matter was set for May 16, 2017. L. R. 230(d). The hearing on this Plaintiffs filed their Reply 2 1 two days after the deadline, without seeking the Court’s leave 2 for late filing. 3 Plaintiffs’ Reply or accompanying documents. 4 The Court, therefore, has not considered The Court also declines to consider Plaintiffs’ late-filed 5 Declaration. 6 Plaintiffs’ Motion and does not add facts beyond those already 7 included in the other Declaration and Exhibits that were 8 submitted with the Motion. 9 Plaintiffs’ Motion contains no citations to the missing 10 The Declaration repeats the arguments in See ECF Nos. 105 & 106. Furthermore, Declaration, but only cites the timely-filed Exhibits. 11 12 II. OPINION 13 14 A. Legal Standard 15 Plaintiffs bring their motion to vacate under Federal Rules 16 of Civil Procedure 52, 54, 59, and 60. 2 17 request an order vacating the final judgment in this case, 18 vacating all orders rendered by this assigned Judge, 19 disqualifying this Court from deciding this case, and referring 20 the case to the Chief Judge of the Circuit for the appointment of 21 a three judge court. 22 motion does not specifically seek additional findings or 23 amendment of a Court order. Mot. at 1. Mot. at 6. Plaintiffs Apart from these requests, the 24 Under Rule 52(b), a party may file a motion for amended or 25 additional findings within 28 days after the entry of judgment. 26 Upon such motion, the Court may amend its findings—or make 27 2 28 All further references to Rules are to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 3 1 additional findings—and may amend a judgment accordingly. 2 permitted under Rule 52(a)(3), the Court granted Defendants’ 3 Motions to Dismiss, with prejudice, without stating findings or 4 conclusions. 5 they seek an order vacating that judgment, not an amended 6 judgment or additional findings and conclusions. 7 no authority indicating that Rule 52(b) is a vehicle for vacating 8 the judgment or other orders in these circumstances. 9 is inapplicable. 10 ECF No. 102. As is Plaintiffs’ request makes plain that Plaintiffs cite Rule 52(b) Plaintiffs also cite Rule 54(b) for the proposition that the 11 Court may reconsider non-final judgments. However, the Rule 12 states that “any order or other decision, however designated, 13 that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and 14 liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action 15 as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time 16 before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and 17 all the parties’ rights and liabilities.” 18 (emphasis added). 19 November 18, 2016. 20 Plaintiffs the relief they seek. Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) The Court entered judgment by its Order on Therefore, this rule cannot provide 21 Rules 59 and 60 are more suited to Plaintiffs’ request. 22 Under Rule 59(e), a party may file a motion to alter or amend the 23 judgment within twenty-eight days of the judgment order. 24 Plaintiffs filed their Motion twenty-eight days after judgment 25 order and thus met the deadline. 26 limited, however. 27 or alter are not listed in [Rule 59(e)], the district court 28 enjoys considerable discretion in granting or denying the Relief under this Rule is “Since specific grounds for a motion to amend 4 1 motion.” 2 Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). 3 entry remains an extraordinary remedy which should be used 4 sparingly.” 5 general, there are four basic grounds upon which a Rule 59(e) 6 motion may be granted: (1) if such motion is necessary to correct 7 manifest errors of law or fact upon which the judgment rests; 8 (2) if such motion is necessary to present newly discovered or 9 previously unavailable evidence; (3) if such motion is necessary Allstate Ins. Co. v. Herron, 634 F.3d 1101, 1111 (9th “[A]mending a judgment after its Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted). “In 10 to prevent manifest injustice; or (4) if the amendment is 11 justified by an intervening change in controlling law.” 12 motion “may not be used to raise arguments or present evidence 13 for the first time when they could reasonably have been raised 14 earlier in the litigation.” 15 Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th Cir. 2000) (emphasis in original). 16 Id. The Kona Enters., Inc. v. Estate of Rule 60 also provides an avenue to challenge a final 17 judgment or order. “On motion and just terms, the court may 18 relieve a party or its legal representative from a final 19 judgment, order, or proceeding for . . . (1) mistake, 20 inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly 21 discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not 22 have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 23 59(b); (3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or 24 extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing 25 party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been 26 satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an earlier 27 judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it 28 prospectively is no longer equitable; or (6) any other reason 5 1 that justifies relief.” 2 delineating the “Legal Standard,” but only specifically reference 3 Rule 60 (b)(5) and (6) in their argument; even then, Plaintiffs 4 only provide a legal basis for vacating judgment under Rule 5 60(b)(6). 6 apply in this case and the Court does not discern a basis for 7 vacating under that subsection. 8 the merits only under Rule 60(b)(6). Plaintiffs cite Rule 60(b) broadly in Plaintiffs do not explain how Rule 60(b)(5) would This Order, therefore, evaluates 9 10 B. Analysis 11 Plaintiffs ask the Court to vacate its final judgment in 12 this case because the assigned Judge should be disqualified under 13 28 U.S.C. § 455 and because the Court lacked authority to strike 14 Plaintiffs’ request for a three judge court. 15 16 17 1. Disqualification Federal law provides two means by which a judge may be 18 disqualified from a case. 19 an “affidavit that the judge before whom the matter is pending 20 has a personal bias or prejudice either against him or in favor 21 of any adverse party[.]” 22 then the motion must be referred to another judge to determine 23 the merits. 24 obligation on the judge sitting on the case to recuse himself in 25 any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be 26 questioned or if he is aware of grounds for recusal under 27 § 455(b), whether or not a party files an affidavit. 28 Sibla, 624 F.2d 864, 868 (1980). Id. Under 28 U.S.C. § 144 a party may file If the affidavit is legally sufficient In contrast, 28 U.S.C. § 455 imposes an 6 U.S. v. 1 Plaintiffs make their motion under § 455 and not § 144. 2 Thus, Plaintiffs are not entitled to have the matter referred to 3 a different judge, see Sibla, 624 F.2d at 868, much less the 4 intercircuit panel Plaintiffs request, Mot. at 8. 5 Plaintiffs’ motion should “prompt the judge to whom the motion is 6 directed to determine independently whether all the circumstances 7 call for recusal under the self-enforcing provisions of § 455(a) 8 & (b)(1), a matter which rests within the sound discretion of the 9 judge.” 10 Still, Id. at 868. Although § 455 does not authorize the reopening of closed 11 litigation, a court may vacate judgment for a violation of 12 § 455(a) under the procedure provided by Rule 60(b). 13 v. Health Serv. Acquisition Corp., 486 U.S. 847, 863 (1988). 14 Supreme Court has determined that Rule 60(b)(6), in particular, 15 may provide an appropriate remedy for such violations. 16 863–64. 17 enable them to vacate judgments whenever such action is 18 appropriate to accomplish justice,” but it “should only be 19 applied in extraordinary circumstances.” 20 quotation marks omitted). 21 should be vacated for a violation of § 455(a), it is appropriate 22 to consider the risk of injustice to the parties in the 23 particular case, the risk that the denial of relief will produce 24 injustice in other cases, and the risk of undermining the 25 public’s confidence in the judicial process.” 26 Liljeberg The Id. at The Rule “provides courts with authority adequate to Id. (citations and “[I]n determining whether a judgment Id. at 864. Defendant Howle argues that this motion is untimely because 27 Plaintiffs could have raised the issue prior to judgment. 28 Howle Opp. at 6. See The Court is also skeptical of Plaintiffs’ 7 1 ignorance of the facts now raised. 2 for Appointment of a Three Judge Court demonstrates that they 3 were concerned that “a substantial number of federal judges in 4 this court and Circuit have direct financial and general 5 interests in the case due to the fact that they were former state 6 judges.” 7 month before entry of judgment. 8 they were not under a duty to investigate the Judge’s background, 9 they do not attest that they were not aware of this Court’s ECF No. 98 at 2. Indeed, Plaintiffs’ Request Plaintiffs filed that request a full Although Plaintiffs argue that 10 former employment prior to entry of judgment. 3 11 this Court takes its responsibility under § 455(a) seriously, it 12 will address Plaintiffs’ concern irrespective of timeliness. 13 Recusal is not warranted or appropriate. However, because Neither this Judge 14 nor his family has an interest, financial or otherwise, in the 15 outcome of the litigation. 16 contrary, this Judge is no longer employed by or receiving 17 benefits from the Superior Court of California and/or Sacramento 18 County and has not for a number of years. This Judge resigned 19 from the Sacramento County Superior Court in April, 2008 upon his 20 appointment to this Federal District Court. In response to 21 Plaintiffs’ specific allegations, this Judge has absolutely no 22 interest in continued benefit payments from his past employment 23 as a Superior Court Judge and no interest in the fines and 24 penalties prayed for by Plaintiffs under the California Political 25 Reform Act. 26 3 27 28 Despite Plaintiffs’ argument to the Further, although Plaintiffs vaguely refer to this Even Plaintiffs’ untimely Declaration fails to assert such a fact concretely. ECF No. 115-1 at ¶ 5a (“Plaintiffs did not have an obligation to investigate the judge and did not initiate any investigation of the judge[.]”). 8 1 Judge’s “personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts 2 concerning the proceedings,” Mot. at 10, this Judge is unaware of 3 any such facts. 4 Plaintiffs cite helpful. 5 13. 6 complaint in those matters or the remedy sought. 7 is no information that would enable the Court to determine 8 whether those particular district judges were similarly situated 9 to this Judge at this time. The Court also does not find the Recusal Orders See Plaintiffs’ Exhibits Vol. 1, Exh. The exhibits do not indicate the substance or details of the Moreover, there The Court, after viewing the issues 10 in this case and considering its own situation, is fully 11 satisfied that Rule 60 is not implicated. 12 there has been no Due Process violation. 13 The Court need not and will not vacate its final judgment or any 14 other order on this basis. For the same reasons, See Mot. at 5–6; 11. 15 16 2. 17 Request for a Three Judge Court Plaintiffs argue that the Court lacked authority to strike 18 Plaintiffs’ request for a three judge court and that this act, 19 too, is grounds to vacate the Court’s judgment. 20 Plaintiffs claim the strike was a “prejudicial error.” 21 11. 22 injustice flowed from that ruling. 23 request on October 20, 2016, and instructed that any such request 24 must be filed as a motion. 25 month between that Order and the Court’s final judgment to re- 26 file their request as a motion. 27 Plaintiffs failed to file any Opposition to Defendants’ Motions 28 to Dismiss, which were due eighteen days before the Court entered Mot. at 11–12. Mot. at The Court does not find, however, that any prejudice or The Court struck Plaintiffs’ ECF No. 100. Plaintiffs had nearly a See ECF No. 102. 9 Furthermore, 1 its judgment on the merits. 2 the dismissal on the merits. 3 responding to this Court’s order and adhering to standard rules 4 of procedure led to the outcome they now ask the Court, in its 5 discretion, to vacate. 6 nor justified under either Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b). 7 8 9 10 11 Even now, Plaintiffs do not dispute Plaintiffs own neglect in The requested relief is neither required III. ORDER For the reasons set forth above, the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s Motion to Vacate and for Other Relief. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: May 18, 2017 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 10

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