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Jackson v. United States Postal Service

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

September 16, 2019

THELMA JACKSON, ET AL.
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, ET AL.

          ORDER

          ERIN WILDER-DOOMES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is a document entitled “EMERGENCY URGENT MOTION REQUEST”[1] which, the Court construes as a Motion for Recusal filed by pro se Plaintiffs Thelma Jackson (“Jackson”) and Gerald Mcdowell (“Mcdowell”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”), individually and on behalf of their minor children Stylez Jackson and Gessiah McDowell (“Gessiah”). Although the document requests a default judgment, [2] the Motion cites 28 U.S.C. § 455 and appears to also seek recusal of the undersigned. To the extent the Motion seeks recusal, it will be denied.

         I. Factual Background

         On August 28, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against the United States Postal Service (“USPS”), Vital Records of New Orleans (“Vital Records”), Baton Rouge General Hospital (the “Hospital”), and Rhandi Wise (“Wise”).[3] Plaintiffs’ primary claim is that their USPS-issued post office box is being tampered with/is being accessed by individuals whom Plaintiffs say do not have permission to access it in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1703 and the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In support of this allegation, Plaintiff specifically point to the following events. First, Plaintiffs allege that they have not received Gessiah’s birth certificate, despite that Gessiah’s date of birth was May 28, 2019. Plaintiffs allege that they have contacted Vital Records but keep receiving “inconsistent answers” regarding Gessiah’s birth certificate. Plaintiffs further allege that the Hospital has advised Plaintiffs that it is unclear why the doctor who delivered Gessiah, i.e., Wise, did not sign Gessiah’s birth certificate until July 2, 2019.[4]

         Second, Plaintiffs claim that the correspondence enclosing Gessiah’s social security card was opened when Plaintiffs retrieved it from their post office box.[5] They further assert that an unnamed USPS representative advised them that “Kimberly Jackson” and “Courtney Jackson”[6]were “associated” with their post office box and asked if Plaintiffs executed a “family change of address, ” which Plaintiffs deny.[7] Plaintiffs argue that they have notified USPS on several occasions that their mail has been tampered with and vital records have been withheld from them, to no avail. At the hearing, Plaintiffs stated that they notified law enforcement about this as well.

         In connection with the foregoing claims, Plaintiffs demand the following: (1) an investigation into the allegations discussed above, (2) that the USPS search for mail addressed to Plaintiffs and their minor children from 2017 until the present, and (3) $500, 000 in damages for the destruction/withholding of and delay in Plaintiffs’ receipt of their mail. Plaintiffs also demand that, if any USPS representative engages in retaliatory conduct, or causes physical or mental harm or injury to Plaintiffs, that such person be sentenced “to life in prison and 500, 000 x 3 in monetary damages.”[8]

         The same day their Complaint was filed, Plaintiffs also filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, which the Court granted.[9] A hearing was set pursuant to Spears v. McCotter[10] (“Spears hearing”), to determine if any or all of Plaintiffs’ claims were frivolous and subject to dismissal.[11]At the September 11, 2019 Spears hearing, Plaintiffs presented information regarding the basis for their claims. At the end of the Spears hearing, Plaintiffs were advised that a report would be issued with the undersigned’s recommendation to the district judge that Plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed, [12] but that Plaintiffs would have fourteen days to submit objections to the report. Plaintiffs were also advised that the district judge would make the final decision and issue a ruling as to whether Plaintiffs’ claims would be allowed to proceed.

         II. Law and Analysis

         Two statutes govern recusal motions: 28 U.S.C. § 144 and 28 U.S.C. § 455.[13] § 144 states as follows:

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.

         Plaintiffs have not met the procedural requirements of § 144 as they have not submitted an affidavit stating the facts and reasons for the belief that bias or prejudice exists.[14] Thus, recusal under § 144 is not applicable.

         § 455 reads, in pertinent part, as follows:

(a) Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned. (b) He shall also disqualify himself in the following circumstances: (1) Where he has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding. . . .”

         While § 455 does not contain the same procedural requirements as § 144, ...


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