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Walsh v. Krantz

December 8, 2008

RORY M. WALSH, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NATURAL GUARDIAN OF C.R.W., PLAINTIFF
v.
DR. ROBERT KRANTZ, UNKNOWN DALLASTOWN STAFF MEMBER, AND DALLASTOWN AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the court is a motion (Doc. 106) to recuse filed by pro se plaintiff Rory M. Walsh ("Walsh"). Walsh contends that the court demonstrated a personal bias by (1) unduly inhibiting his right to pretrial discovery, (2) improperly restricting his right to present expert reports, (3) displaying animosity toward him during a telephone conference, (4) attempting to intrude upon the attorney-client privilege, and (5) improperly delaying disposition of a motion to file a second amended complaint. For the reasons that follow, the motion to recuse will be denied.

I. Factual Background Relevant to the Motion to Recuse*fn1

The civil complaint in this case was filed in April 2007, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985, the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, and eavesdropping claims arising under state and federal law. (See Doc. 1.) Walsh named ten different parties as defendants in the complaint, and the defendants subsequently filed two separate motions to dismiss. (See Docs. 3, 11.) A standard case management order was issued on June 4, 2007, which set jury selection and trial for April 2008. (Doc. 17.) On June 13, 2007, the court stayed discovery pending disposition of the motions to dismiss. (Doc. 27.) By February 2008, the court had yet to issue a ruling on defendants' motions to dismiss; therefore, the court stayed the trial schedule pending such a ruling. (See Doc. 45.) On June 4, 2008, the court issued a memorandum and order granting defendants' motions to dismiss in part and denying the motions in part. (Doc. 46.)

The court then held a telephone conference with the parties on June 10, 2008. (See Doc. 47.) During this conference, the court discussed the potential content of Walsh's amended complaint and extended the deadline within which Walsh was to file his amended pleading. (Id.) According to Walsh, the court began "shouting" at him during this conference. (See Doc. 107 ¶ 7, at 9.) On June 25, 2008, Walsh filed an amended complaint, which added new allegations unrelated to the claims previously stated. (See Doc. 52.) The court stayed discovery related to Walsh's new claims, but allowed discovery to move forward with respect to the cognizable claims alleged in Walsh's original complaint. (See Doc. 53.)

On July 1, 2008, Walsh filed an ex parte motion seeking limited immunity for himself, as well as for "families of the Dallastown community... that must be interviewed in order to document the defendants [sic] abuse." (Doc. 56 ¶¶ 5-6.)

Walsh averred that the Pennsylvania Department of Education had warned him that it was a misdemeanor to publicly disclose facts concerning "educator misconduct." (See id. ¶ 4.) Ostensibly afraid that his interviews with parents in the community would fall into this category of misdemeanor, Walsh requested court-sanctioned immunity. On July 3, 2008, the court denied Walsh's request, indicating that the statutes under which he feared prosecution were not applicable to his proposed course of conduct.*fn2 (See Doc. 58.)

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint on July 15, 2008. (Doc. 61.) This motion was fully briefed by August 8, 2008, and on August 22, 2008, the court issued a memorandum and order granting defendants' motion in part and denying the motion in part. (Doc. 72.) The court's order also instructed the parties regarding the trial schedule going forward, indicating that Walsh's expert reports were to be provided to defendants by September 30, 2008. (See id.) Neither party objected to the court's order regarding the discovery schedule.

Walsh filed a motion for leave to filed a second amended complaint on September 8, 2008. (Doc. 89.) That motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition. Walsh then retained the services of an attorney, Jonathan Crisp ("Attorney Crisp"), who entered an appearance with the court on September 21, 2008. (Doc. 93.) On October 20, 2008, Walsh petitioned the court to terminate Attorney Crisp as his attorney. (Doc. 94.) The court ordered Attorney Crisp to file a response to Walsh's request. (Doc. 96.) Attorney Crisp filed a response on October 26, 2008, explaining that his "professional judgment did not allow him to pursue the case in the manner and fashion [Walsh] desired." (Doc. 97 ¶ 2.) The court then granted Walsh's motion to terminate Attorney Crisp as counsel. (Doc. 98.)

On November 21, 2008, Walsh filed the instant motion, which seeks recusal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455. (See Doc. 106 at 1.) Attached to his brief in support of the motion, Walsh appended an affidavit as required by 28 U.S.C. § 144. (Doc. 107, Ex. A.) Walsh contends that the court exhibited a bias warranting recusal by prejudicially restricting his right to discovery; by restricting his ability to submit expert reports to the court; by displaying open animosity toward Walsh during the June 10, 2008 telephone conference; by requiring Attorney Crisp to file a written response regarding Walsh's motion to terminate him as counsel; and by failing to rule on Walsh's motion to file a second amended complaint, which has been ripe since September 12, 2008.

II. Discussion

The United States Code provides litigants two avenues by which to seek the recusal of a presiding judge. The first such judicial disqualification standard is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 455, which provides 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 ...


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