Jean-Charles v. Perlitz et al
ORDER denying 238 Motion to Transfer/Disqualify/Recuse Judge. Signed by Judge Robert N. Chatigny on 10/24/12. (Goldsticker, M) Modified on 10/24/2012 to submit as an opinion (Kelsey, N.).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
a/k/a/ JEAN-CHARLES JOSEPH,
LEAD CASE NO.
DOUGLAS PERLITZ, et al.,
RULING AND ORDER
The plaintiffs in these consolidated cases allege that
they were sexually abused by defendant Douglas Perlitz while
he operated a residential school in Haiti under the auspices
and supervision of the other defendants, Fairfield
University, the Society of Jesus of New England ("the New
England Province"), Haiti Fund, Inc., the Sovereign Military
Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and
Malta, Hope Carter and Father Paul E. Carrier, S.J.
plaintiffs claim that these other defendants are liable for
damages under state, federal and international law because
of their own negligence and breach of fiduciary duties.
Pending is a motion for recusal (doc. 238).
seeks my disqualification from all the consolidated cases
and transfer of the litigation to Judge Arterton.
opposition to the motion have been submitted by all the
defendants except Mr. Perlitz and Haiti Fund, Inc. (docs.
240, 242, 243, 245 and 246).
No party has requested oral
After careful consideration of the parties'
written submissions in light of the applicable law, I
conclude that the motion must be denied for substantially
the reasons stated by the defendants.
The recusal motion is based primarily on 28 U.S.C. §
455(a), which provides: "Any justice, judge or magistrate
judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any
proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be
Under this part of the statute,
disqualification is required when "an objective,
disinterested observer fully informed of the underlying
facts [would] entertain significant doubt that justice would
be done absent recusal."
97, 100 (2d Cir. 2008).
United States v. Carlton, 534 F.3d
If this objective standard is not
met, disqualification is prohibited.
Aguinda v. Texas,
Inc., 241 F.3d 194, 201 (2d Cir. 2001).
The plaintiffs state that my continuing to sit creates
an appearance of impropriety because at oral argument on
motions to dismiss filed in this case, I disclosed that I am
an alumnus of Georgetown University Law Center and stated,
"I think if this were a case against Georgetown, I probably
should not sit."1
The plaintiffs submit that, in view of my
comments, my relationship with Georgetown could make it
difficult for me to be impartial with respect to imposing
liability on Fairfield University, another Jesuit
institution whose President, the Rev. Jeffrey von Arx, S.J.,
previously served as chair of Georgetown's history
They further submit that there is a possibility
Georgetown could become embroiled in this litigation if
discovery shows that Jesuits in training affiliated with the
Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus were sent to the
school in Haiti during the relevant period of time.
The defendants respond that my relationship with
Georgetown does not provide a basis for recusal under §
445(a) because a judge's involvement with a university as an
active alumnus does not justify recusal even when the
university itself is being sued.
See, e.g., Lunde v. Helms,
29 F.3d 367, 370-71 (8th Cir. 1994) (in action by former
medical student against university, recusal not warranted
In addition to graduating from Georgetown Law, I
have hired law clerks from there in the past and contributed
to its annual fund in the past. Last year, I participated
in one of its moot court programs as a judge.
because judge's graduation from university's law school, his
making of alumni contributions and his participation in
educational programs at the law school did not provide an
objectively reasonable basis for questioning his
impartiality); Wu v. Thomas, 996 F.2d 271, 275 (11th Cir.
1993) (in action by faculty members against university,
recusal not warranted because judge's active involvement as
university alumnus, his service as unpaid adjunct professor
at the university, his offer of internships to university's
law students, his annual donation to the university for
football tickets, and his plan to create a scholarship at
the university would not cause a reasonable observer to
question his impartiality); Easley v. Univ. of Mich. Bd. Of
Regents, 906 F.3d 1143, 146-47 (6th Cir. 1990) (in action by
former law student against university administrators and
faculty members, recusal not warranted because judge's
affiliations and activities as an active alumnus of the law
school failed to support a finding that his impartiality
might reasonably be questioned).
Under the objective
standard as it has been applied in these analogous cases, my
ties to Georgetown would not cause a disinterested observer
fully informed of the underlying facts to have a significant
doubt about my ability to be impartial in this litigation.
Therefore, I agree with the defendants that my ongoing
relationship with Georgetown does not provide a basis for
The plaintiffs also invoke § 455(b)(4), which requires
recusal if the judge or his spouse has "any interest that
could substantially be affected by the outcome of the
They contend that recusal is proper under this
section of the statute because, in discussing the motions to
dismiss, I pointed out that my wife teaches at a private
secondary school that supports a nonprofit program for
disadvantaged youth in the developing world and periodically
sends students there to serve as volunteers.
They urge that
my remarks indicate that I harbor a concern that my spouse's
interests could be substantially affected by a ruling in
The defendants respond, correctly, that my
comments at the oral argument were in the nature of a
hypothetical, aimed at clarifying the plaintiff's theory of
liability, and, as such, do not support a motion to
See Hynd v. City of Danbury, No. 3:04cv888(SRU)
2006 WL 3746059, at *5 (D. Conn. Dec. 15, 2006).
further respond that the plaintiff's argument based on my
spouse's employment must be rejected because "there is only
a remote and speculative possibility, if any, that a
decision in this case will affect [her school] in any way,
financially or otherwise," and if the plaintiff's theory
were accepted as a basis for recusal, "[t]he list of
opportunities for groundless recusal" would be "endless."
McCann v. Commc'ns Design Corp., 775 F. Supp. 1535, 1538,
1543-44 (D. Conn. 1991).
Accordingly, the motion is hereby denied.
So ordered this 24th day of October 2012.
Robert N. Chatigny
United States District Judge
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