Bruzzone v. Intel Corporation et al

Filing 58

ORDER by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers denying 54 Motion to Disqualify Judge. Case remains before Judge Alsup. (Attachments: # 1 Certificate/Proof of Service) (fs, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/17/2014)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DI D ISTRICT COU URT 7 NORTHER DISTRICT OF CALIFO RN T ORNIA 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 MIC CHAEL A. BRUZZONE, R Plaintiff, 13 v. 14 15 C Case No.: 14 4-CV-01279-WHA O RDER DENY YING MOTIO OF PLAIN ON NTIFF F OR JUDICIA RECUSAL OF THE HONORABLE AL W ILLIAM H. ALSUP INTE CORPOR EL RATION et al., Defe endants. 16 On June 4, 2014, pro se plaintiff Michael A. Bruzzone f o f . filed a motio pursuant t Section on to 17 18 144 of Title 28 of the United States Cod which mo o d de, otion seeks t disqualify the Honora William to y able m 19 A dice, and dis scrimination." (Dkt. No. 54.) On Ju 9, 2014, une H. Alsup on the grounds of "bias, prejud 20 Judg Alsup ref ge ferred plainti motion for reassignm pursua to Civil L iff's f ment ant Local Rule 3-15, and the 21 mot tion was assi igned to the undersigned judge. Hav u d ving carefull considered the papers submitted ly d 22 and the filings in this action and for the reasons set forth below the Court DENIES plain n n, e w, ntiff's 23 tion.1 mot 24 I. 25 26 ROUND BACKGR The Fals Claims Ac codified at 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-37 se ct, a 733, "permits individuals known as s s, 'rela ators,' to file suit on beha of the Un alf nited States s seeking dam mages from persons who file false 27 28 1 Pursua to Federa Rule of Ci Procedur 78(b) and Civil Local Rule 7-1(b) the Court ant al ivil ure d l ), deci ides the moti without oral argume ion ent. 1 claims for government funds." Hooper v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 688 F.3d 1037, 1041 (9th Cir. 2 2012) (citing 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(1)). In prior proceedings in 2013, plaintiff, acting through 3 counsel, brought a qui tam action under the False Claims Act in this District, naming as defendants 4 Intel Corporation ("Intel") and others. The case was assigned to Judge Alsup as Civil Case No. 13- 5 3729. 6 On February 27, 2014, Judge Alsup dismissed plaintiff's qui tam action without prejudice 7 after the United States declined to intervene and plaintiff asserted, both in writing and at a hearing 8 held before Judge Alsup, that he lacked the financial resources to prosecute the qui tam action on 9 behalf of the United States. (Case No. 13-3729, Dkt. No. 31.) 10 On March 19, 2014, plaintiff commenced the instant action by filing a seventy-two page United States District Court Northern District of California 11 individual complaint against Intel and others. (Dkt. No. 1.) The complaint was styled a "Federal 12 Relator Civil Complaint." (Id.) It alleged two purported claims, "conspiracy to defraud on deceit" 13 (id. ¶¶ 93-137) and "gross negligence" (id. ¶¶ 138-52).2 14 On May 21, 2014, Judge Alsup struck the complaint. (Dkt. No. 51 ("May 21 Order").) 15 Judge Alsup's May 21 Order forms the basis of plaintiff's allegations of improper bias. In the May 16 21 Order, Judge Alsup related the procedural history of plaintiff's previous qui tam actions against 17 Intel. (Id. at 1-2.) Judge Alsup stated that his dismissal of Case No. 13-3729 "ended forever 18 [plaintiff's] qui tam action." (Id. at 2.) Judge Alsup then noted that plaintiff's newly filed 19 Complaint was "replete with 78 references to [plaintiff] as a 'relator.'" (Id.) Judge Alsup stated that 20 "[a] pro se relator cannot prosecute a qui tam action on behalf of the United States." (Id. (citing 21 United States ex rel. Stoner v. Santa Clara Cnty. Office of Educ., 502 F.3d 1116, 1127 (9th Cir. 22 2007)).) He further stated that plaintiff "is not a relator" and that "[t]he United States is in no way 23 involved with this action." (Id. (emphases in original).) Judge Alsup struck the complaint and gave 24 plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint by a date certain. (Id.) Judge Alsup ordered that any 25 amended complaint "shall make no reference whatsoever to 'relator,' 'qui tam,' or the False Claims 26 Act, or imply in any way that [plaintiff] is acting on behalf of the United States." (Id. at 2-3.) 27 28 2 Outside the complaint, plaintiff describes the case as "an individual antitrust [and] civil RICO suit[.]" (Dkt. No. 54 at 10.) 2 1 Judg Alsup wa ge arned: "If the new pleadin in any wa suggests that [plaintif is acting on behalf of e ng ay ff] f 2 the United State the pleadi will be dismissed wi U es, ing d ithout leave t amend ag to gain. [Plaint tiff] would 3 be well advised to review th two motio to dismis and address the defici w he ons ss iencies ident tified therein n 4 befo he files his first amen ore h nded compla aint." (Id. at 3.) t 5 Plaintiff' motion contends that Judge Alsup May 21 O f's J p's Order evinces bias in its r s refusal to 6 ackn nowledge plaintiff's statu as a relato its warnin that conti us or, ng inuing to ass such stat would sert tus 7 resu in dismiss with preju ult sal udice, its sta atement that dismissal of plaintiff's p f previous qui tam action 8 ende that action "forever," and in its ac of striking plaintiff's c ed ct g complaint. 9 II. 10 LEGAL STANDARD When a party to a pr roceeding be elieves that th judge mig have "a p the ght personal bia or as United States District Court Northern District of California 11 prejudice" again him, he may file an affidavit seek nst m a king recusal of that judge. 28 U.S.C § 144. C. 12 The affidavit mu specifica allege "f ust ally facts that fair support t contentio that the ju rly the on udge exhibits s 13 bias or prejudice directed to s e oward a party that stems from an extr y rajudicial so ource." Unit States v. ted 14 Silba, 624 F.2d 864, 867 (9t Cir. 1980) "Since a f th ). federal judge is presume to be impa e ed artial, the 15 part seeking di ty isqualificatio bears a su on ubstantial bu urden to show that the jud is biased Perry v. w dge d." 16 Schw warzenegger 790 F. Sup 2d 1119, 1129 (N.D. Cal. 2011) aff'd sub nom. Perry v. B r, pp. , . Brown, 671 17 F.3d 1052 (9th Cir. 2012) (q d C quoting Torr v. Chrysl Fin. Co., Case No. C res ler C-07-00915 J 2007 JW, 18 WL 3165665, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 25, 2007). t C 19 The stan ndard for recu or disqu usal ualification i "whether a reasonable person with knowledge is e h e 20 w ude e's lity of all the facts would conclu the judge impartial might reasonably be questioned." United 21 . Stat v. Studley 783 F.2d 934, 939 (9th Cir. 1986). This stand tes y, 9 h dard does not mandate re t ecusal upon 22 an "unsubstantia suspicio of personal bias or pr ejudice." U ated on United States v. Holland, 519 F.3d 23 909, 913 (9th Ci 2008) (cit ir. tations omitt ted). "[A] ju udge should be disqualif only if it appears fied t 24 that he or she ha arbors an ave ersion, hostility or dispo osition of a k kind that a fa air-minded p person could 25 not set aside wh judging the dispute." See Liteky v. United St hen t " tates, 510 U.S. 540, 558 (1994) 26 (Ken nnedy, J., co oncurring). An adverse judicial rulin is not an a A j ng adequate bas for recusal. Id. at sis 27 549. Nor may parties "attac a judge's impartiality on the basis of informat p ck i tion and beliefs acquired d 28 whil acting in his or her jud le h dicial capaci ity." United States v. M d McTiernan, 69 F.3d 882, 891 (9th 95 , 3 1 Cir. 2012) cert. denied, 133 S. Ct. 964 (U.S. 2013) ( (quoting United States v Frias-Ram v. mirez, 670 2 F.2d 849, 853 n.6 (9th Cir. 1982)). Abs some ev d 1 sent vidence of bi or prejud originati outside ias dice ing 3 of a proceeding, a judge's ru , ulings may be considered as a basis f disqualif b d for fication "only in the y 4 rarest circumsta ances." Litek 510 U.S. at 555 ("Alm invaria ky, most ably they are proper grou e unds for 5 eal, r appe not for recusal."). 6 III. 7 DISCUSS SION The Cou has carefu reviewed plaintiff's affidavit and concludes that plaintif has urt ully d ff 8 artic culated no fa that coul form a leg acts ld gitimate basi upon whic to disqual Judge A is ch lify Alsup from 9 pres siding over plaintiff's cas Plaintiff identifies no evidence o bias beyon Judge Als p se. f o of nd sup's judicia al rulin ngs. See Un nited States v. Coleman, 918 F.2d 18 1 (9th Cir. 1 v 1990) ("A judge's rulings while s 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 pres siding over a case do not constitute extrajudicial conduct.") ( t e (citing Nilsson v. Louisia ana 12 Hyd drolec, 854 F.2d 1538, 15 (9th Cir 1988)). W F 548 r. While plaintif relies solel on advers rulings ff ly se 13 Judg Alsup ma against him, "[a]dver findings do not equat to bias." J ge ade h rse te Johnson, 610 F.3d at 14 1148. To the ex xtent that pla aintiff suggests that Judg Alsup's ch ge hoice of wor is itself e rds evidence of 15 bias the Court finds that sug s, f ggestion mis splaced. The language s e suggests that Judge Alsu was being t up g 16 emp phatic, nothin else. Eve "expressio of impat ng en ons tience, dissa atisfaction, an nnoyance, an even nd 17 ange are not gr er' rounds for es stablishing bias or impar b rtiality . . . ." Pesnell v. Arsenault, 5 F.3d " 543 18 1038, 1044 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Lite 510 U.S at 555-56) see also O h ( eky, S. ); Ortiz v. Stewa 149 F.3d art, d 19 ir. o y mments mad by the jud after the court had de dge 923, 940 (9th Ci 1998) (no impartiality where "com 20 mined the pl leadings and stipulations simply refl ected that th judge was appropriate upset d s he s ely exam 21 with petitioners'' conduct" (internal quot h tation marks and bracket omitted)). Stern speec alone ts ch 22 prov vides no basi for recusa See Liteky 510 U.S. a 555-56. S is al. ky, at Similarly, to the extent th hat 23 plain ntiff's motio reflects pe on ersonal umbr rage at Judge Alsup's rul e ling that plai intiff is not a "relator" 24 (see Dkt. No. 54 at 17-24), that umbrage does not su e 4 t e upply ground for recusa ds al. 25 Plaintiff fails to artic f culate any fa that tend to show tha Judge Als is biased against him acts d at sup d m 26 pers sonally. "Th is simply no evidenc that the ju here y ce udge acted o of an imp out proper or cor rrupt 27 mot tive." Blixse v. Yellows eth stone Mount tain Club, LL 742 F.3d 1215, 1221 (9th Cir. 2 LC, 2014). This 28 on case is not one of the rare ci e o ircumstances in which d s disqualificatio should be granted ba e ased on a 4 1 judg rulings. See Liteky, 510 U.S. at 555. The ad ge's dequacy of J Judge Alsup''s rulings is p properly 2 save for appeal if any. See id. ed l, e 3 IV. CONCLU USION 4 Plaintiff' motion is DENIED. Th above-sty f's he yled case rem mains before Judge Alsu e up. 5 This Ord terminate Docket No. 54. der es N 6 IT IS SO ORDERED. 7 8 9 Date June 17, 2014 e: 2 ____ ___________ __________ ___________ ________ YVONN GONZAL ROGERS NE LEZ S UNITED STA ATES DISTRIC COURT JUDGE CT 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?