Edenstrom v. Thurston County et al

Filing 61

ORDER On Review of Refusal to Recuse re Plaintiff's 58 Motion/Affidavit of Prejudice. The Court finds no evidence upon which to reasonably question Judge Bryan's impartiality and AFFIRMS his denial of Plaintiff's request that he recuse himself. Signed by Chief Judge Ricardo S Martinez.(TH) Modified on 9/6/2017 (TH). (cc: Defendant Seth Schade served via U.S. Mail)

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1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 6 7 8 THEODORE B. EDENSTROM, Plaintiff, 9 v. 10 11 ORDER ON REVIEW OF REFUSAL TO RECUSE THURSTON COUNTY, et al., Defendants. 12 13 CASE NO. C16-5982RJB This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff’s Affidavit of Prejudice (Dkt. #58), which 14 the presiding judge, the Honorable Robert J. Bryan, has construed as a request for his recusal. 15 After review of the document, Judge Bryan declined to recuse himself. Dkt. #59. In accordance 16 with the Local Rules of this District, the matter was then referred to the Undersigned for review. 17 LCR 3(e). 18 In his Affidavit, Plaintiff states that he “believe[s], that Mr. Robert J. Bryan has either some 19 personal, undisclosed bias against Plaintiff, or has an interest adverse to Plaintiff.” Dkt. #58 at 1. 20 This “belief” appears to be based on Judge Bryan’s prior decision granting summary judgment in 21 22 23 24 ORDER ON REVIEW OF REFUSAL TO RECUSE1 1 favor of Defendants, to which Plaintiff objects.1 Dkt. #58 at 1-2. Indeed, Plaintiff specifically 2 references sections of the summary judgment Order with which he disagrees. Id. at 2. 3 Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455(a), a judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any 4 proceeding in which his impartiality “might reasonably be questioned.” Federal judges also shall 5 disqualify themselves in circumstances where they have a personal bias or prejudice concerning a 6 party or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding. 28 U.S.C. 7 § 455(b)(1). 8 Under both 28 U.S.C. §144 and 28 U.S.C. § 455, recusal of a federal judge is appropriate 9 if “a reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts would conclude that the judge’s impartiality 10 might reasonably be questioned.” Yagman v. Republic Insurance, 987 F.2d 622, 626 (9th 11 Cir.1993). This is an objective inquiry concerned with whether there is the appearance of bias, not 12 whether there is bias in fact. Preston v. United States, 923 F.2d 731, 734 (9th Cir.1992); United 13 States v. Conforte, 624 F.2d 869, 881 (9th Cir.1980). In Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540 14 (1994), the United States Supreme Court further explained the narrow basis for recusal: 15 [J]udicial rulings alone almost never constitute a valid basis for a bias or partiality motion. . . . [O]pinions formed by the judge on the basis of facts introduced or events occurring in the course of the current proceedings, or of prior proceedings, do not constitute a basis for a bias or partiality motion unless they display a deep seated favoritism or antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible. Thus, judicial remarks during the course of a trial that are critical or disapproving of, or even hostile to, counsel, the parties, or their cases, ordinarily do not support a bias or partiality challenge. 16 17 18 19 Id. at 555. 20 21 22 23 1 Plaintiff also has a pending motion for reconsideration related to that summary judgment Order. 24 Dkt. #57. ORDER ON REVIEW OF REFUSAL TO RECUSE2 1 Plaintiff cites no evidence which would support a finding of impartiality, prejudice or bias 2 on Judge Bryan’s part. While it is clear he believes that Judge Bryan’s summary judgment ruling 3 was erroneous, this is insufficient to form the basis of a valid request for recusal. Plaintiff is 4 entitled to appeal any rulings he believes to be in error, but he may not properly seek recusal of 5 the presiding judge on those grounds. A judge’s conduct in the context of pending judicial 6 proceedings does not constitute the requisite bias under 28 U.S.C. § 144 or § 455 if it is prompted 7 solely by information that the judge received in the context of the performance of his duties. Bias 8 is almost never established simply because the judge issued adverse rulings against a party. 9 In order to overcome this presumption, Plaintiff would have to show that facts outside the 10 record influenced the decisions, or that the judge’s rulings were so irrational that they must be the 11 result of prejudice. Plaintiff does not allege any facts outside the record that improperly influenced 12 13 the decisions in this matter. Accordingly, the Court finds no evidence upon which to reasonably question Judge Bryan’s impartiality and AFFIRMS his denial of Plaintiff’s request that he recuse himself. 14 15 16 The Clerk SHALL provide copies of this Order to Plaintiff, all counsel of record, and to Judge Bryan. Dated this 6 day of September, 2017. 17 A 18 RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 19 20 21 22 23 24 ORDER ON REVIEW OF REFUSAL TO RECUSE3

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