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Ballard v. Williams

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 14, 2015

TODD DARRELL BALLARD, Plaintiff
v.
COI WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

MATTHEW W. BRANN, District Judge.

Before the Court are a number of the Plaintiff's filings, including a Motion to Recuse (ECF No. 229), a Motion for Sanctions (ECF No. 209), and a Motion for Reconsideration of the Plaintiff's Prior Motions for Appointment of Counsel (ECF No. 235), among others. For the following reasons, the listed motions are denied.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Todd Darrell Ballard, a state inmate proceeding pro se, commenced this action on June 28, 2010, asserting that prison staff and officials violated his constitutional rights following an altercation between Ballard and his cellmate on March 30, 2008. In his second amended complaint, Ballard claimed that corrections officers at SCI-Camp Hill entered his cell following the altercation and assaulted him, burning him on a radiator during the scuffle. Plaintiff also alleges that he was slammed against the wall multiple times, and that he suffered burns when his head was pressed against the radiator while he was forced to the floor and handcuffed. He also alleges that some defendants failed to intervene.

Ballard made further allegations against several correctional defendants for theft of his personal property, and argued that the supervisory defendants, Defendants Zobitne and Palakovish, failed to adequately investigate his complaints after he filed a grievance regarding the March 30, 2008 incident. Finally, Ballard also sued several of the prison's physicians assistants and nurses alleging that they rendered inadequate medical treatment to him for injuries that he sustained as a result of the alleged assault.

After several years of litigation, the correctional defendants moved for partial summary judgment on some of Ballard's claims. On July 25, 2014, Chief Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson issued a report and recommendation stating that the Defendants' motion should be granted in part. After extending the Plaintiff's deadline for filing objections to the report until September 30, 2014, the Court adopted the report and recommendation. In the wake of the Court's adoption, the Plaintiff filed a number of motions that are the subject of this Memorandum.

II. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff filed a variety of motions currently pending before the Court, including a Motion to Recuse (ECF No. 229), a Motion for Sanctions (ECF No. 209), and a Motion for Reconsideration of the Plaintiff's Prior Motions for Appointment of Counsel (ECF No. 235), and a Motion for a Pretrial Conference (ECF No. 234), among others. The Court begins its considerations with the Plaintiff's Motion to Recuse.

A. Motion to Recuse Denied

The Plaintiff filed a motion seeking the undersigned's recusal in this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 144 alleging bias or prejudice of the judge.[1] The principal basis for the motion is the Court's adoption of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation after the period for objections had run, but before the Plaintiff's timely filed objections had arrived at the Court for its consideration. To be clear, the Court merely entered an Order after the period for objections had run, not anticipating the Plaintiff's later filing that is deemed timely pursuant to the prison mailbox rule. These facts do not require or even anticipate recusal.

The rules of law governing the recusal of a trial judge for personal bias pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 144 are well settled. The mere filing of an affidavit of bias in accordance with the statute does not require a federal trial judge to disqualify himself in that case. United States v. Dansker, 537 F.2d 40, 53 (3d Cir. 1976). "[A] trial judge need only recuse himself if he determines that the facts alleged in the affidavit, taken as true, are such that they would convince a reasonable man that he harbored a personal, as opposed to a judicial, bias against the movant." Id . "[A] trial judge is equally obligated not to recuse himself when the facts do not give fair support to a charge of prejudgment, as he is to excuse himself when the facts warrant such action." United States v. Diorio, 451 F.2d 21, 24 (2d Cir. 1971); accord Simmons v. United States, 302 F.2d 71, 75 (3d Cir. 1962).

In a hoary case that has withstood the test of time, the Supreme Court of the United States articulated the principles behind recusal of this nature:

The basis of the disqualification is that personal bias or prejudice' exists, by reason of which the judge is unable to impartially exercise his functions in the particular case. It is a provision obviously not applicable save in those rare instances in which the affiant is able to state facts which tend to show not merely adverse rulings already made, which may be right or wrong, but facts and reasons which tend to show personal bias or prejudice. It was never intended to enable a discontented litigant to oust a ...

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