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Guichard v. City of New Orleans

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

October 28, 2014

TAMMY GRIFFITH & STACEY GUICHARD,
v.
CITY OF NEW ORLEANS, ET AL., SECTION:

ORDER AND REASONS

JAY C. ZAINEY, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Tammy Griffith and Stacey Guichard have filed a Motion to Disqualify (28 U.S.C. § 455; 28 U.S.C. § 144) (Rec. Doc. 563) seeking to have the Court disqualify itself from this matter on two grounds. First, that the Court's impartiality might reasonably be questioned because it reversed the magistrate judge's ruling pertaining to defendant Bell's medical records. And second, that the Court failed to disclose that Ms. Shelley Aucoin, the Court's former daughter-in-law, is a lawyer with the State of Louisiana Attorney General's Office, thereby triggering mandatory disqualification.

Title 28, § 144 states:

Whenever a party to any proceeding in a district court makes and files a timely and sufficient affidavit that the judge before whom the matter is pending has a personal bias or prejudice either against him or in favor of any adverse party, such judge shall proceed no further therein, but another judge shall be assigned to hear such proceeding.
The affidavit shall state the facts and the reasons for the belief that bias or prejudice exists, and shall be filed not less than ten days before the beginning of the term at which the proceeding is to be heard, or good cause shall be shown for failure to file it within such time. A party may file only one such affidavit in any case. It shall be accompanied by a certificate of counsel of record stating that it is made in good faith.

28 U.S.C. § 144.

Title 28, § 455 states in relevant part:

Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

He shall also disqualify himself in the following circumstances:

He or his spouse, or a person within the third degree of relationship to either of them, or the spouse of such a person:
Is known by the judge to have an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding

28 U.S.C. § 455(a), (b)(5)(iii).

Under both § 455 and § 144, the party seeking disqualification must present facts tending to show that disqualification is appropriate. Hoover v. Lindsey, No. 01-2926, 2002 WL 31246745, at *1 (E.D. La. Oct. 4, 2002). The standard for judicial disqualification under § 455 is whether a reasonable person, with full knowledge of all the circumstances, would harbor doubts about the judge's impartiality. Lyon v. Wise Carter Child & Caraway, No. 10-185, 2013 WL 139335, at *1 (S. D. Miss. Jan. 10, 2013) (quoting Matassarin v. Lynch, 174 F.3d 549, 571 (5th Cir. 1999)). The standard for bias is an objective one "with reference to the well-informed, thoughtful and objective observer, rather than the hypersensitive, cynical, and suspicious person that the objective standard is currently established." Id. (quoting Andrade v. Chojnacki, 338 F.3d 448, 455 (5th Cir. 2003)). The facts and reasons set out in the § 144 affidavit "must give fair support to the charge of a bent mind that may prevent or impede impartiality of judgment." Id. (quoting Parrish v. Bd. of Comm'rs, 524 F.2d 98, 100 (5th Cir. 1975)). Those facts must be material, stated with particularity, show that the bias is personal rather than judicial in nature, and if true, would convince a reasonable person that bias exists." Id. (citing United States v. Merkt, 794 F.2d 950, 960 n.9 (5th Cir. 1986)). Like a motion for disqualification filed under § 455, motions pursuant to § 144 are resolved "by applying the reasonable man standard to the facts and reasons stated in the affidavit." Id. (citing Parish, 524 F.2d at 100).

Further, it is well-established that adverse judicial rulings alone almost never constitute a valid basis for a bias or partiality motion. Id. (quoting Andrade, 338 F.3d at 455); Dantzler v. Tangipahoa Parish Sch. Bd., No. 05-147, 2005 WL 1501420 (E. D. La. June 20, 2005). And a federal judge's duty to preside where not disqualified is equally as strong as the duty not to sit where ...


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