United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
May 20, 2005.
NAVISTAR FINANCIAL CORP., Plaintiff
PINNACLE TRUCK SALES & CORPORATION, WEST END MOTOR COMPANY, INC., RAMON P. GRAPSY, JOAN MARIE GRAPSY, RAMON P. GRAPSY, III and DENISE GRAPSY, Defendants v. NAVISTAR INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORTATION CORPORATION n/k/a INTERNATIONAL TRUCK AND ENGINE CORPORATION, Third-Party Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN E. JONES, District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:
Pending before the Court is a motion to recuse the undersigned
judge ("the Motion") (doc. 112) filed by Third-Party Defendant
Navistar International Transportation Corp., n/k/a International Truck & Engine
Corporation ("International") on May 19, 2005.
In the Motion, International moves for recusal, asserting that
"impartiality might reasonably be questioned" due to a financial
arrangement between the undersigned and counsel for Defendant
West End Motor Company, Frederick Fanelli, Esquire, which
involved the referral of a single personal injury case to Mr.
Fanelli in exchange for a referral fee upon our joining the
federal bench. (See Int.'s Br. Supp. Mot. Recuse at
There are two statutory provisions that address recusal:
28 U.S.C. §§ 144 and 455. The two statutory provisions have been
deemed in pari materia so that the test for disqualification is
similar under both sections. See, e.g., United States v.
Gittman, 1989 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9587, *6 (E.D. Pa. 1989); United
States v. Romano, 1988 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12257, *4 (E.D. Pa.
1988). To warrant recusal under § 144, the motion and affidavit
must allege a factual basis for a finding of extrajudicial bias.
The judge must harbor actual bias against the litigant that is
not derived from the evidence or conduct of the parties which the
judge observes in the course of the proceedings. Johnson v.
Trueblood, 629 F.2d 287, 290-91 (3d Cir. 1980). Section 455, as
International submits, requires a judge to recuse himself in any
proceeding in which "his impartiality might reasonably be
questioned." 28 U.S.C. § 455(a). The Third Circuit Court of
Appeals has instructed that the above language has been
interpreted to mean that "a judge should recuse himself where a
reasonable man knowing all of the circumstances would harbor
doubts concerning the judge's impartiality." United States. v.
Dalfonso, 707 F.2d 757, 760 (3d Cir. 1983).
While the Court finds the logic and thrust of International's
Motion and accompanying brief to be somewhat dubious, we have by
reason of the referenced referral to Mr. Fanelli evidently given
International's counsel the impression that "impartiality might
reasonably be questioned," which raises at least an appearance of
bias in the case sub judice. Under the circumstances, we
believe it pointless to argue the finer points of recusal, and
will relinquish this file. NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT:
1. Third-Party Defendant International's Motion for
Recusal (doc. 112) is GRANTED.
2. The Clerk of Court shall reassign this case to