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Culver v. Borough

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 23, 2014

JAMES CULVER, Plaintiffs
v.
KINGSTON BOROUGH, et al., Defendants

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MARTIN C. CARLSON, Magistrate Judge.

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

This case comes before us for consideration of plaintiff's motion that this Court recuse itself in this case. On March 18, 2014, the plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, filed this complaint. (Doc. 1.) We were then assigned to this matter. Notified of this judicial assignment the pro se plaintiff seek our recusal, at the outset of this lawsuit, apparently based upon the fact that the we ruled against the plaintiff in a prior, unrelated, lawsuit, and granted a defense motion in this case. (Doc. 12.) Because the court's rulings on questions of law do not provide grounds for recusal, this motion will be denied.

II. Discussion

A. Recusal of This Court is Not Warranted

The legal standards which govern such recusal requests are clear and clearly compelling. These principles begin with the settled tenet that a judge "has as strong a duty to sit when there is no legitimate reason to recuse as he does to recuse when the law and facts require." Bryce v. Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Colorado , 289 F.3d 648, 659 (10th Cir.2002) (quoting Nichols , 71 F.3d at 351); Cooney v. Booth , 262 F.Supp.2d 494, 508 (E.D.Pa.2003); see also United States v. Snyder , 235 F.3d 42, 46 n. 1 (1st Cir.2000); Curley v. St. John's University , 7 F.Supp.2d 359, 362 (S.D.N.Y.1998).

The guiding benchmarks in this field were aptly summarized in Conklin v. Warrington Township , 476 F.Supp.2d 458 (M.D. Pa. 2007), a case which considered, and rejected, a recusal request. In terms that are equally applicable here, the court explained that:

The disqualification standard is set forth in 28 U.S.C. ยง 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 circumstances:
(1) Where he has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party....
Id. Pursuant to the above quoted language, the court must consider whether its rulings and statements objectively produce the appearance of bias against [a party]. As explained by the Supreme Court, these provisions "require... bias and prejudice'... to be evaluated on an objective basis, so that what matters is not the reality of bias or prejudice but its appearance." Liteky v. United States , 510 U.S. 540, 548, 114 S.Ct. 1147, 127 L.Ed.2d 474 (1994). This objective standard requires recusal when a "reasonable man knowing all the circumstances would harbor doubts concerning the judge's impartiality." Edelstein v. Wilentz , 812 F.2d 128, 131 (3d Cir.1987) (citing United States v. Dalfonso , 707 F.2d 757, 760 (3d Cir.1983)); see also In re Antar , 71 F.3d 97, 101 (3d Cir.1995). If the record presents a close question, the court must resolve the issue in favor of disqualification. Nichols v. Alley , 71 F.3d 347, 352 (10th Cir.1995).

Id. at 462-3.

It is clear, however, that a party's disappointment with what the party anticipates may be the court's rulings cannot form the ...


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